Texans-Titans: What we learned

Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It started with Super Bowl dreams and ended with the NFL's worst record.
The Houston Texans are now on the clock after absorbing their 14th straight loss Sunday, committing four turnovers that led to a 16-10 win for the Tennessee Titans in both teams' regular-season finale at LP Field.
After winning the AFC South in 2011 and 2012, Houston (2-14) owns the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Texans opened the year with back-to-back comeback victories against San Diego and Tennessee, but didn't win a game after that. Coach Gary Kubiak was fired Dec. 6 when the losing streak reached 11.
Texans management is expected to name a new coach as early as Tuesday. Published reports suggest their target is Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, a former assistant coach with the New England Patriots, but Texans owner Bob McNair is moving forward with multiple interviews with other candidates this week, a source told The Sports Xchange on Saturday night.
Interim coach Wade Phillips, who went 0-3 after Kubiak's dismissal, said it was one of his toughest years in coaching.
"I still believe the guys played hard," he said. "I didn't ask them to win every game. I asked them to play hard and I thought they did that. We made too many turnovers."
Quarterback Matt Schaub tossed two interceptions and lost a fumble in the second half, while running back Jonathan Grimes lost a fumble after an 11-yard reception in the second quarter, denying Houston a chance to build on a 7-3 lead.
Grimes' first NFL touchdown, a 3-yard run with 9:37 left in the first quarter, gave the Texans a quick 7-0 lead. But it was their last points until placekicker Randy Bullock converted a 19-yard field goal with 2:53 remaining in the game.
Houston got the ball back on its 9 with 1:06 left, but Schaub threw an interception to free safety Michael Griffin on first down to seal the Titans' first home win since Sept. 29 against the New York Jets.
"The guys focused in on our task of playing better and getting two wins to end the season," Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said.
Munchak is hoping to be back for a fourth season after the Titans won their last two games to finish 7-9, giving him a 22-26 record since being hired before the 2011 season. He will make his case to the team's new president, Tommy Smith, soon.
"There's a lot of things we're going to talk about," Munchak said. "We would have liked to have been better this year. We have to figure out how we can get better and then go from there."
Running back Chris Johnson, who might have also been playing his last home game, rushed for 127 yards and the go-ahead touchdown on 27 carries. Johnson's 11-yard run with 5:39 left in the third quarter gave Tennessee a 13-7 lead.
It was just the second 100-yard game this year for Johnson, who could be released in the offseason unless he agrees to take a pay cut from his $8 million salary for 2014. He had a $10 million base salary this season, all but $1 million guaranteed.

What the Texans said
"I really couldn't answer that right now. I just can't answer that. Sorry." -- Interim coach Wade Phillips on whether he will stay with the team if it hires another head coach.

What the Titans said
"Everybody was playing for everybody's job. Some don't know if they'll be playing next year." -- Running back Chris Johnson on the team's motivation for the regular-season finale.

What we learned about the Texans
1. Quarterback Matt Schaub still has a future in the NFL, but it's probably not with the Texans. Schaub finished a nightmare season with two more interceptions, giving him 14 in 358 attempts and a passer rating of just 73.0. The fans turned on Schaub this year and it's probably in his best interest to find another employer for 2014. Houston is expected to take a quarterback with the first overall pick in the draft.
2. Defensive end J.J. Watt stayed in beast mode, even though his team finished 2-14. Watt notched nine tackles -- five for loss -- and had a sack. Even more impressive was that he hustled 34 yards down the field to tackle Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright after a big gain in the second quarter, potentially saving a bigger play or a touchdown. The Texans might have stunk this season, but don't blame Watt.

What we learned about the Titans
1. Wide receiver Kenny Britt's time with the team is over. Britt was inactive for the last game, an ignominious end to his stay in Nashville. Britt was about to become one of the NFL's top receivers when he blew out his knee in the third game of the 2011 season and was never the same. Britt caught just 11 passes for 96 yards and upset the coaching staff with a parade of mental errors.
2. The Titans have only themselves to blame for missing the playoffs. Had they not coughed up a fourth-quarter lead on Sept. 15 in Houston or not lost an overtime game Dec. 15 to Arizona, the Titans would be in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. But their inability to consistently close out games in the fourth quarter cost them dearly in the end. Depending on how management feels, it could also cost coach Mike Munchak his job.

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