HOUSTON _ The Tennessee Titans showed again on Sunday that they still have many more questions than answers.
The Titans lost quarterback Jake Locker on their second offensive series as he re-injured his left shoulder. The Titans then eventually came unraveled in the second half, falling 38-14 to the Houston Texans.
At 1-3, the Titans will again have to get up off the mat after being knocked out well before the game was over.
The Titans weathered an initial storm and trailed only 14-7 at halftime, but that glimmer of hope quickly caved in with a barrage of Titans mistakes and Texans domination.
With one series in the third quarter, Tennessee's Darius Reynaud returned a punt to the Texans' 30, only to have it called back on a holding penalty on rookie Taylor Thompson.
Then on the next play, Matt Hasselbeck lofted a pass behind Thompson, who tipped it into the air and into the arms of Danieal Manning, who raced 55 yards for a TD. Just like that, instead of driving for a potential tying score, it was 21-7 and the Texans' rout was on.
"It's frustrating because I feel like we're not that far away. But we didn't play great," Hasselbeck said. "We had three turnovers, and I was a part of them. It's frustrating because I know we're capable of a lot more, and I know we could have played a lot better today."
If you're looking for bright spots, Chris Johnson and the running game finally showed up with 141 yards on 25 carries.
But it was far too little for an offense that produced as many scoring drives for the Texans on Sunday as they did for themselves, with a second pick-six coming in the fourth quarter, 63 yards courtesy of Kareem Jackson.
“We gave up big plays, and we didn't play smart in areas,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “There's no doubt we helped them. They returned two interceptions, and against a good team, you can't do that.”Tennessee's defense held up in certain spots, but buckled eventually against the high-powered Texans.
After a win over Detroit last week, the Titans reverted back to the being the problematic team that has now been blown out in three of four games this year. Being down so far, the Titans have been unable to even stay close in most games.
“That is the problem. That's the only problem. You take yourself out of the game, you can't win,” receiver Damian Williams said. “It didn't have anything to do with the other team. Credit them, they're a good team, but I don't think they're that much better of a team than we are. On paper, we've got just as much talent as anybody else in this league. We've just got to put it together.”
Tennessee has now given up a mind-boggling 151 points at the quarter-pole of the season, and have allowed at least 34 points in every game this season.
The Titans are on pace to give up an astronomical 604 points this season, which would obliterate the NFL record of 533 points allowed in a season by the 1981 Baltimore Colts. In fact, only three teams in NFL history have been bad enough to give up 500 points in a season. Those three teams that gave up 500-plus finished a combined 3-42-1.
“We don't have a lot of room for error. We don't have a lot of room to make mistakes, especially when we're playing against a good team. And every time we made a mistake, they capitalized on it,” said linebacker Akeem Ayers.
The Titans limp out Reliant Stadium at 1-3 and north to Minnesota next week to take on the surprising 3-1 Vikings, perhaps without Locker, who will have an MRI on his injured left shoulder on Monday.
Early on Sunday, the Texans gave an indication that the game could be a rout, quickly driving down the field against Tennessee's defense, going 77 in seven plays with Matt Schaub finding James Casey from 11 yards out for a quick 7-0 lead.
Houston was make it 14-0 before the quarter was over as Arian Foster capped a 47-yard march with a 4-yard TD run.
In between those two touchdowns, the Titans lost Locker, who was blasted on a safety blitz from Glover Quin.
“It was a five-man protection, and they brought a blitz that I didn't see, covered both of our routes on the backside, and the guy got to me,” Locker said.
There were no signs early that the Titans were going to make a game of it until the second quarter, when Hasselbeck pieced together a solid drive of 78 yards on seven plays. The Titans capped the drive with a 19-yard TD throw from Hasselbeck to Craig Stevens to cut the lead to 14-7 and swing momentum in their favor for a short time.
However, once the avalanche of turnovers and penalties came, it proved to be the undoing of the Titans, who fell to 1-3. Despite the struggles, Munchak is trying to regroup the team and remain optimistic.
“You go 1-3, and it's our own doing. We're in this together. We've got a long way to go – 12 games is a lot of football left. We get to write the ending of the story.”
Added cornerback Jason McCourty, “The season doesn't stop. No one is going to feel sorry for us. Minnesota doesn't care what our record is. They just want to win the next one, and so do we.”