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Texans-Titans postgame notebook


NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Texans' red zone woes persisted in Tennessee where the team fell to the Titans by a score of 31-12. It was a day filled with missed opportunities for Houston's offense, which was 3-15 on third downs and 1-6 inside in the 25-yard line. The bright spot for the Texans was rookie Steve Slaton, who rushed for 116 yards.

Slaton's coming out party: Rookie Steve Slaton proved on Sunday that he is going to be something special. In his first NFL start, the running back rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown.

He did all of this against the a Tennessee defense that came into the game ranked second against the run, allowing only 60.5 yards rushing per game. The Titans defense also boasts three Pro Bowl linemen, including ends Jevon Kearse and Kyle Vanden Bosh and tackle Albert Haynesworth.

"He played a lot of plays," head coach Gary Kubiak said of Slaton. "We were going to rotate him, but he played so well we kept going with him. I liked the way he broke tackles. He just kept going and gave us a chance to make big plays."

Slaton's longest run came on a 50-yard scamper in the first quarter when he bounced off the defensive line and sprinted up the sideline for the second-longest run in Texans history.

In the second quarter, the rookie came up with a clutch first-down conversion when the Texans were fourth-and-one at Tennessee's 11-yard line. On the next play, Slaton got into the end zone for a six-yard touchdown.

By halftime Slaton had racked up 104 yards on the ground, but he was used less in the second half when quarterback Matt Schaub started connecting with his receivers.

"We probably got away from the run game too quick in the second half, in all honestly," Kubiak said. "We ran the ball good in the first half. He has a chance to be a fine player; he's just got to keep going."

{QUOTE}The head coach wasn't the only Texan praising Slaton.

"I knew Slaton was good," offensive tackle Eric Winston said. "We all knew. He has that speed and with our system he can break one at any time and I think he proved that. I wish we would've been able to get him the ball more in the second half.

"I think he's a guy that can just light (up the scoreboard) at any point. You're going to see a lot more of him. I thought he showed a lot of heart out there. He ran tough. He's a tough kid. He's not big, but he took some shots and kept plugging his legs. I know he got a lot of respect out of us."

Slaton's banner day, however, was clouded by the offense's struggles in the red zone where the Texans were 1-6 and forced to settle for two field goals instead of touchdowns.

"I think you can take a little joy out of it," Slaton said. "As an offense, we have to work on the red zone and putting points on the board. If we do the same thing we did today but come out with six points instead of three, I think we'll be doing a lot better."

Stout second-half defense: The Texans' defense in the second half not only kept the team in the game, it put the Texans in a position to win.

"I just think they played their hearts out," Kubiak said. "They kept us in the football game. They were excellent on third downs in the second half - gave us a chance for some returns, gave us some good field positions. We just didn't get it done offensively."

The Titans' offensive unit led by quarterback Kerry Collins was sent packing on four three- and-outs in the second half. Tennessee's only points after halftime came on a 44-yard field goal by Rob Bironas and an interception returned 99 yards by cornerback Cortland Finnegan.

"We were tackling better," defensive tackle N.D. Kalu said. "We were executing the game plan. They (coaches) got us ready all week and it just feels like in the second half that we were really executing the game plan.

"We were trying to stop the run. We knew that rookie was explosive – and, hopefully, get them in third-and-long so we can get some pressure on the quarterback."

Titans running back Chris Johnson, who rushed for 109 yards against Cincinnati in Week 2, finished with 74 yards but he didn't make any breakaway, game-changing plays.

"It was all about stepping up," defensive tackle Amobi Okoye said. "We wanted to win bad. We just wish we could have gotten a little more turnovers in the second half as we did in the first. That's something we're going to keep on working on."

No quarterback controversy: After the game, Kubiak was asked if he considered playing backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels for Schaub. The starter finished 17-37 with three interceptions and no touchdowns. The head coach's response was:

"You've got to let a guy work through things. I mean, he did not start clean, but we were right there in the ball game. It was a 12-10 ball game. That's part of playing quarterback in this league. I didn't consider it today. I'll go back and I'll study everybody on the film and see how we were playing. He needed to work through that and make some plays to help us win the game. We were in a very tight football game and we've got some plays there that we didn't make. You've got to also remember there that he did make two great throws that we dropped for touchdowns. There's other people involved in winning and losing, not just the quarterback. We've all got to do our job."

Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson was not able to hang on to two of Schaub's passes, which proved costly for the team.

"I thought I was by myself and instead of attacking the ball I let the ball come into my arms," Johnson said. "He (cornerback Nick Harper) swung at it and hit my arms. It just slipped right out. So like I said, the game, it's my fault. I take full responsibility for it and for me to be the player I want to be, that's one of the plays I have to make."

Schaub did hit wideout André Davis with a 49-yard pass, but the long bomb was overshadowed by the quarterback's struggles in the red zone and his last-minute interception. Schaub threw a pick on fourth-and-10 at the Tennessee 11, an interception that Finnegan returned for a touchdown to seal the Titan's win.

"We settled for a couple field goals early, which was difficult to swallow," Schaub said. "But I was upset with myself for some of the throws that I made, trying to get the ball in there. At the end of the game there I'm trying to make a play and get my team back in the game, but unfortunately that didn't happen. I've got to play better."

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