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Giveaways giving Texans headaches


The Texans have fought the turnover battle all season. At times, it's seemed like a never-ending story.

They have a whopping 29 giveaways going into Sunday's game at Tennessee. The Titans, you'll recall, grabbed six turnovers from the Texans on Oct. 21 at Reliant Stadium in a thrilling game in which the Texans scored 29 fourth quarter points and almost pulled off a gigantic comeback victory before losing 38-36.

That game underscored the Texans' season-long battle to hold onto the football and give themselves a chance for victories.

"Even last year we went up there (to Tennessee) and turned the ball over," wide receiver Andre Johnson said. "I had a ball bounce off my shoulder pads and get picked off. We just weren't executing and they jumped right on us and we ran out of time."

Then came the first meeting with the Titans this year. After turnovers put the Texans deep in a fourth quarter hole, they charged back from a horrible three quarters and lost in the final seconds.

Houston's miscues led to 12 points by the Titans, all field goals.

"You look at the game that was here (Oct. 21) they jumped out on us," Johnson said. "We weren't doing well offensively at the beginning of the game. We played catch up at the end and the same thing happened."

The Texans gave up five turnovers Oct. 28 against San Diego for a grand total of 11 in two weeks.

"As an offense you can work on it," wide receiver André Davis said. "You can make sure you're holding onto the ball every time, but it's not full contact."

Still, practice is different from live action.

"You're not getting head shots and guys grabbing and all sorts of things," Davis said. "You don't want to do that in practice because guys are going to get hurt and you won't be ready for the game."

Explaining turnovers is difficult.

"We need as an offense to focus a little bit more on the things they teach you since Pop Warner," Davis said. "All the points of protection, the points of contact and getting both hands on the ball when you know you're about to get hit."

{QUOTE}Doing all that doesn't always prevent a turnover.

"Some things you can't control," Davis said. "If someone takes your hat off or gives you a concussion or if they hit the helmet right on the ball, the ball is going to come out," Davis said. "We have to make sure it's not us."

Twenty of the Texans' 29 turnovers this season have cost them 108 points. Houston's defense has managed 20 turnovers resulting in 46 points.

Wide receiver Kevin Walter doesn't want to see a repeat of the Texans' first game against Tennessee this season.

"The first thing is guys carrying and catching have to hold onto the ball," Walter said. "If we don't turn the ball over, we give ourselves a chance to win the game. It's hard to go into a hostile environment like this week (at Tennessee), and if we turn the ball over it's hard to win."

The Texans were back playing giveaway last week in a 27-17 loss at Cleveland. The Texans had two interceptions and a fumble. The interceptions led to 14 points for the Browns.

"We've got to start off fast," Walter said. "We have to execute fast and score. These guys will come in and try to be physical with us and we've got to punch them in the mouth, run the ball and make plays down field a lot better than we did last week. That's the main thing."

Houston has overcome eight turnovers in their five victories this season, which is fairly remarkable. But Walter knows better than to expect the Texans to win if they continue that trend.

"If we turn the ball over, it's tough to win in this league," Walter said. "These guys have lost their last three, but they're hungry. They think they're going to beat us in their home stadium. We just have to eliminate turnovers and make plays."

The Texans jumped to a good start in the regular season with the defense snagging seven turnovers that led to 10 points in victories over Kansas City and Carolina. They had three giveaways in those two games.

It's been a rough road since then. They've had at least two turnovers in every game since with the exception of one turnover against Oakland.

"I think it's something we've got to get corrected," wide receivers coach Larry Kirksey said. "We work on it in practice all the time. It's a matter of really focusing on it as a team. We've got to keep harping on these guys to hold onto the football."

Tight end Owen Daniels, usually sure-handed, lost one against Cleveland that left Kirksey scratching his head.

"Last week, OD caught the ball, he was ready to put it away and it just came out," Kirksey said. "I can't explain it. It wasn't natural for the ball to come out, but it did. Consequently, it cost us."

That's the whole point. Turnovers are costly, and if the Texans want to stay in the AFC wild-card race and avoid a division sweep against one of their most bitter rivals, ball security must be a top priority.

EDITOR'S NOTE: *Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports. *

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