NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—The Tennessee Titans remain undefeated. They’re still working at perfection.
“It’s a long way to go, but 3-0 is a good start,” Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse said after getting his first full sack this season. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement.”
The Titans last won their first three games in 1999—their first season in their current stadium—and in 1991 while still in Houston and playing as the Oilers. With this victory, they now have beaten the team that replaced them in Houston seven straight times and in 11 of 13 games.
The Texans (0-2) wanted to provide an emotional boost to their hometown, where most people remain without power more than a week after Hurricane Ike hit. The hurricane forced the postponement of the Texans’ home opener. The Titans sympathized with what the Texans have endured with coach Jeff Fisher praising the Houston effort.
“It’s hard to imagine what they went through. It’s hard to imagine for us basically what the population has gone through there in south Texas. For them to pull together like they did and fight to the very end, I think the whole organization, players coaches, staff and their friends should be commended for it,” Fisher said.
The Texans, who next visit Jacksonville, had their chances and even led 3-0 on a 44-yard field goal by Kris Brown.
But they scored only 12 points despite getting inside the Tennessee 14 six times, the last with 5:12 left when they were stopped short on fourth-and-4 at the Titans 10. Houston coach Gary Kubiak wasn’t happy with a couple of dropped TDs in the first half.
“You can’t come in a place like this and do that. We had our chances in the first half to make some big plays. We were poor on third down and missed some third downs. Overall, we were poor in the red zone,” he said.
The Tennessee defense sacked Matt Schaub three times, Michael Griffin had two interceptions and Cortland Finnegan sealed the victory by returning Schaub’s third pick 99 yards for a TD and a franchise record.
“We did bend, but we did not break,” Finnegan said. “That was one of the great things.”
Collins started his second straight game with Vince Young watching from a box and threw an interception on his first pass. But the 14-year veteran threw for 189 yards, making him the 15th NFL quarterback with at least 35,000 yards passing in his career.
“It’s a nice milestone. But we’ve got work to do,” Collins said after they managed one field goal in the second half.
Houston rookie Steve Slaton became the first running back to top 100 yards against the Titans this season and scored his first pro TD on a 6-yard run. He had nine carries for 104 yards in the first half with 50 coming on one carry. But he was stopped short on fourth-and-goal from the Tennessee 3 with 7:06 left and finished with 117.
Jacques Reeves picked off Collins’ first pass and ran to the 14. But Andre Johnson dropped a pass from Schaub in the end zone before Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth sacked Schaub on the next play. A false start penalty pushed them back farther as Kris Brown kicked a 44-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans recovered a fumble by Titans receiver Justin McCareins, and Houston got to the Tennessee 4 before stalling as Schaub dropped a snap, then missed Johnson in the end zone and had another incompletion. Johnson also dropped a second pass in the end zone later.
Collins bounced back. He completed four of five and even scrambled 12 yards for a first down in a 77-yard drive capped by a a 2-yard TD run by White for a 7-3 lead the Titans never lost. He tossed a 9-yard TD pass to Bo Scaife for a 14-6 lead at the beginning of the second quarter.
A 17-yard completion to McCareins in the second quarter put Collins over 35,000 yards. ^Notes: Finnegan’s interception return topped the previous mark of 98 held by two players and last set by Darryl Lewis with a 98-yarder on Oct. 22, 1995, at Chicago. … With the win, Fisher tied Sid Gillman with 123 career wins for 26th in NFL history for career wins. … The Titans have won six straight regular season games going back to last season. … The Titans are 16-4 since 2006 when scoring 20 or more points. … Johnson finished with two catches for 29 yards.