Titans Cruise past Texans

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com
NASHVILLE -- The Tennessee Titans did what they do best Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum. They executed.
But it was the play of quarterback Steve McNair, who amassed 421 yards on 18 of 27 passing with three scores, that keyed the Titans to a 38-17 victory over the rival Houston Texans.
McNair had a little help along the way as well. Derrick Mason had one of the biggest games of his career with 177 yards on six receptions and three scores.
"I think our receivers did a great job of not only catching the football but running after the catch," McNair added. "That makes it a lot easier for the quarterback when you see that happening. That's what they did all day."
Defensively, the Titans picked off Houston's second-year quarterback David Carr three times, including a 51-yard interception return for touchdown from Andre Dyson.
Overall, it was a good day for the home team according to head coach Jeff Fisher.
"I can't say enough about the play of our quarterback and what he was able to do today," said Fisher. "I was awfully proud of him. It was a great job not only by the quarterback but by the offensive line protecting the quarterback."
"We didn't tackle well," said Houston head coach Dom Capers. "This is a team, with Steve McNair and the receiving corps that they have, they can move the ball down the field and they did that today."
Although Carr threw three at Tennessee, he also had 371 yards through the air with two scores. Corey Bradford pulled away five reps for 127.
"It was a little rough," Carr said afterwards. "I think our team fought hard, but there was not really anything too positive we can get out of the game. They got off to a smooth beginning and we were never able to catch up."
Tennessee pulled out a big stop on Houston's first drive and made some big offensive plays. Justin McCareins and Eddie George made big gains on running plays before McNair went to Drew Bennett for an 11-yard first down.
It set up a 32-yard strike to Derrick Mason for the Titans' first score of the game.
Things were pretty repetitive during the next two stanzas as Houston was stopped by good defense from Keith Bulluck and Albert Haynesworth, while McNair went to the air again on the weak Texan secondary.
The quarterback found rookie Tyrone Callico for 26 yards before hitting Mason up for another score with a 46-yard strike towards the end zone.
It looked like the Texans were going to bounce back as Andre Johnson and Bradford made key grabs from Carr to work things down the field. But Tennessee stepped up behind big penalties to force a punt.
The Titans got runs out of Chris Brown out of their next drive, but McNair fumbled it over to Houston. Three plays later, the ball was back in Tennessee's hands when Carr was picked by Rocky Boiman who returned it ten yards.
Tennessee didn't get things going again until their last drive of the second quarter, when Callico made three big grabs to move the chains. It set up Robert Holcombe, who blasted around the right end for a five-yard score.
The Texans rallied back behind Carr, who guided a seven-play drive with passes to Domanick Davis into Tennessee territory to set up a 29-yard field goal from Kris Brown to make it 21-3 into the second half.
After a solid stall to open the half, Houston then showed signs of a possible comeback as Carr hit Jabari Holloway with a 33-yard grab before Bradford broke loose with a 65-yard haul to score.
It took Tennessee two more drives before they were able to get back into high gear, as two pass completions set up Gary Anderson with a 33-yard field goal.
Houston's final drive of the quarter was scary as David Carr received a brutal hit from Albert Haynesworth. The Texans were forced to Punt after Carr recovered and Tennessee entered the fourth quarter with a bang.
After McCareins made a 44-yard grab, Tennessee quickly scored when Steve McNair met Derrick Mason with a 56-yard touchdown to quickly turn the corner.
"I was able to get single coverage and it was a basic crossing route and Steve had time to throw the ball," said Mason.
The Titans continued their rampage when Andre Dyson picked off Carr on the next Houston drive and scampered 51 yards to give the Titans a 38-10 lead.
Houston finally had success in the quarter with the no-huddle offense as Carr directed the Texan offense with help from Davis. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Jevon Kearse set up Carr with a 13-yard touchdown strike to Derick Armstrong to cut the gap with 17 points for his squad.
The Titans next travel to Charlotte to face undefeated Carolina, which defeated Indianapolis Sunday to set up a marquee matchup.