HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans clearly didn't play as clean as they would have liked but their effort against the Tennessee Titans was still good enough Sunday to emerge with a 38-14 win at Reliant Stadium and their AFC-best 4-0 record intact.
Things don't look nearly as bright for the Titans, who saw starting quarterback Jay Locker knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury in the first quarter and their record drop 1-3 after what was a critical AFC South showdown for them.
The Texans, the reigning AFC South champs, are looking not only like the division's top team again but maybe the best the AFC has to offer. On a day when they clearly didn't play at their best on the offensive side of the ball, they were still good enough to throttle what is supposed to be the second-best team in their division.
"I think we know what type of team we have. We're taking advantage of it," said Texans receiver Andre Johnson. "We're not letting an opportunity pass us by."
Two pick-six interceptions by Titans backup Matt Hasselbeck and a couple explosive plays on the offensive side of the ball were all the Texans needed to separate themselves from Tennessee.
After seeming to play uninspired during the second quarter, the Texans bounced back in a big way with 14 points on explosive plays in the third quarter to open a 28-7 lead over the Titans.
In the first half, the Texans couldn't find anyone to break tackles but in the third quarter both running back Arian Foster and tight end Owen Daniels broke tackles on critical plays to gain the 21-point lead. Daniels took a short pass from Matt Schaub and barreled over a few Titans defenders on the way to a 28-yard touchdown reception with 2:47 remaining in the third quarter. His touchdown followed an impressive tackle-breaking 16-yard run by Foster on third down-and-1.
Earlier in the quarter, safety Danieal Manning turned an interception by Hasselbeck into a spectacular 55-yard touchdown return that gave Houston a 21-7 lead 9:21 left to play in the third quarter. Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson also had a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter that gave the Texans a 38-7 lead.
"Anytime you get 14 points from someplace else other than your offense, that's exceptional," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who has the 11-year-old franchise 4-0 for the first time. "I think those are our first points of the year -- if I'm right -- those two touchdowns defensively.
"We're not out there thinking that we have to get the ball all the time, we expect to make some plays and score some points on the defensive side, and special teams also."
Houston jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but complacency and a lack of production on third downs saw them clinging to a 14-7 advantage at halftime.
Hasselbeck put the Titans on the board with a 19-yard touchdown to Craig Stevens with 7:52 left in the half.
Ineffectiveness on third downs seemed to be the difference between a 21-point lead and the seven-point lead the Texans had after two quarters. They were just two of seven on third downs with a couple of third-and-reasonable situations stalling what could have scoring drives.
Hasselbeck also hit Kendall Wright for an 11-yard TD pass with 57 seconds remaining in the game, which capped the scoring.
Notes: Titans starting quarterback Jay Locker was knocked out of the game when he was blindsided on a safety blitz by Quintin Demps with 6:43 left in the first quarter. He suffered a left shoulder injury on the sack. ... Texans tight end James Casey caught the second touchdown of his career on the 11-yard scoring catch in the first quarter. ... Texans kicker Shayne Graham reached the 1,000-career points with his 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.