Texans lose 3rd in row, 23-22 to Titans

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Associated Press

Posted on January 1, 2012 at 7:01 PM

Updated Sunday, Jan 1 at 10:31 PM

HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans talked all week about the importance of beating Tennessee on Sunday to enter the playoffs on the right track.

In the end, coach Gary Kubiak decided keeping his key players healthy entering next week was more important than a victory.

Matt Hasselbeck threw two touchdown passes and the Titans kept alive their playoff hopes with a 23-22 victory over Houston on Sunday after the Texans failed to convert a 2-point conversion attempt that would have won the game.

Houston (10-6) will head into its first postseason on a three-game losing streak. The Texans were locked into the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs and Kubiak played mostly reserves in the second half.

"You would never go for two there in any other situation ... but I had to get them to next week," Kubiak said.

The Texans will face Cincinnati in Houston next Saturday afternoon at Reliant Stadium.

The Titans (9-7) earned their first winning record since 2008 in Mike Munchak's first season, but their postseason fate depended on the outcome of later games in Cincinnati, Oakland and Denver.

Tennessee got some early help when the New York Jets lost in Miami, but was knocked out of playoff contention when the Broncos lost to Kansas City in a late game.

Rookie starter T.J. Yates left the game after one series and was replaced by Jake Delhomme. Kubiak said Yates had a bruised left shoulder but could've returned if necessary.

"Obviously, I didn't want him to go back in the game," Kubiak said. "We'll know better where we're at (Monday) at this point."

The 36-year-old Delhomme, signed Nov. 29 in the wake of season-ending injuries to starter Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart, completed 18 of 28 passes, including a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson with 14 seconds left.

Kubiak called for a 2-point conversion at the end. But after a false start penalty, backup center Thomas Austin snapped the ball over Delhomme's head and the game was over.

The Texans certainly weren't happy about losing, but won't spend any time thinking about what happened on Sunday.

"We're ripping off the rear-view mirror," tight end Joel Dreessen said. "The regular season is over with, and the Texans are officially invited to the postseason. We open up at home, in one week. And that's our focus right now. It's a whole new season, and we have to play at our best."

Chris Johnson ran for 61 yards, and Rob Bironas kicked three field goals for Tennessee. The Titans needed a Bengals loss and victories by Oakland and Denver to earn a postseason rematch with the Texans back in Houston next week.

The Texans had other concerns after the loss.

Yates was sacked on Houston's first snap by Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan. He completed passes to Dreessen and James Casey for first downs, before Tate and Derrick Ward started alternating touches for the rest of the drive.

Tate finished that drive with a touchdown, but Yates came off the field favoring his left shoulder and went to the locker room.

Titans defensive end Dave Ball sacked Delhomme and knocked the ball loose, and safety Chris Hope recovered at the Texans 33. Hasselbeck threw a 25-yard pass to Jared Cook, then found Donnie Avery in the corner of the end zone to move Tennessee in front.

Delhomme threw a 16-yard pass to Andre Johnson to get Houston moving again. Johnson caught two passes and sat out the second half after missing the previous three games with a strained left hamstring.

Neil Rackers kicked a 52-yard field goal with 1:09 left in the first half, but Bironas booted a 43-yarder on the final play before the break to put Tennessee up 13-10. Bironas extended his own NFL record by kicking a field goal of 40 yards or longer for the 10th consecutive game.

The Texans rallied to tie it at 16-all, but Kubiak had most of his defensive starters on the bench in the fourth quarter. Nate Washington got behind rookie cornerback Brandon Harris and third-string safety Quintin Demps for a 23-yard touchdown with 4:31 remaining.

Texans linebacker Jesse Nading recovered a fumble by Ahmard Hall with less than two minutes left, and Delhomme completed 5 of 6 passes to drive Houston for the late touchdown.

Notes: Andre Johnson played about 20 snaps. Kubiak said he isn't ready to play 70 plays next week, but that he should be able to go 45-50. ... Kubiak said Houston OLB Bryan Braman has a stinger. ... Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips worked from the press box after missing two games following kidney and gall bladder surgery.

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