NASHVILLE -In a game of big plays, the one that sealed victory for the Texans was both bizarre and anti-climactic. It was a fitting end to one of the most chaotic games in Texans history.
Trying to lead the Titans on a game-winning drive, quarterback Kerry Collins fumbled the ball on his own 35-yard line without being touched with 1:42 left to play.
Veteran defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina, 39, pounced on the ball and pried it away from the 36-year-old Collins' grasp. Four plays later, the Texans earned an improbable 34-31 victory over their division rival at LP Field.
"That's over 100 years of age there," Zgonina said. Titans center Kevin Mawae, who's 38, also dove for the fumble. "I was just lucky to be there to make the play."
Quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 357 yards and a career-high four touchdowns to lead the Texans back from a 21-7 second-quarter deficit. Two of those touchdowns went to All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson, who caught 10 passes for 149 yards. The deciding score was Kris Brown's 23-yard field goal with 2:55 left in the game.
The Texans overcame a monstrous day from Titans running back Chris Johnson, who had 197 rushing yards on only 16 carries along with 87 receiving yards. He scored three touchdowns, on runs of 91 and 57 yards and a 69-yard catch.
But in this game, the stats told only half of the story. The outcome was decided just as much by the Texans' grit and determination. The Titans, eager to avenge their 13-12 loss at Reliant Stadium last year, pushed - and the Texans, who for an entire week after losing to the Jets heard talk that they were a finesse team, pushed back.
"All week, (Gary) Kubiak talked to us and told us that we need to man up when things go wrong," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "That's what we did. We played fast. We played physical and ended up coming away with a win."
In the second half, heated jawing between tackle Eric Winston and Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch as well as Andre Johnson and Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan contributed to a bedlam-like atmosphere on the field and in the stands at LP Field.
The hostilities mounted at the end of the third quarter when Jacoby Jones muffed a fair catch on a punt. The ball was recovered by the Titans at Houston's nine-yard line, but Tennessee was flagged for kick interference and the Texans retained possession. The call brought an entire stadium full of irate Titans fans to their feet as they showered the officials with boos.
The tension peaked during a fourth quarter-brawl inside the Texans' bench area. Titans defensive tackle Jason Jones was ejected for throwing a punch, and Texans receiver David Anderson also was flagged for a personal foul during the fracas.
Before Brown's 23-yard field goal that provided the winning margin, the Texans tied the game at 31 late in the third quarter on a one-yard touchdown catch by tight end Owen Daniels. Tennessee had taken a 31-24 lead when Chris Johnson broke loose for a 91-yard touchdown run earlier in the quarter.
It was a repeat of what Johnson did in the first quarter, when the Titans needed only nine plays to score their first 14 points thanks to their speedy running back. On Tennessee's first possession, Johnson ran 57 yards on third-and-19 for his first touchdown run.
Andre Johnson's one-handed 19-yard touchdown catch tied the game at seven in the first quarter. Schaub was a perfect four-of-four on third down on the 14-play, 77-yard scoring drive, completing passes to Johnson, Daniels and Anderson.
On the ensuing drive, Chris Johnson scored again, this time on a 69-yard reception. The Texans didn't put a man on him at the line of scrimmage, and nobody covered him as he ran up the left sideline and caught Collins' pass en route to an easy score.
Collins connected with receiver Nate Washington to make the score 21-7 in the second quarter. That capped a seven-play, 54-yard drive.
The Texans wasted no time in beginning their comeback, making it 21-14 on the very next play from scrimmage with Schaub's 72-yard touchdown pass to Johnson. It was the second-longest catch of Johnson's career.
A few plays later, free safety Eugene Wilson intercepted Collins at the 42-yard line and returned the ball to the Tennessee 29. Schaub then found Jones for a game-tying 29-yard touchdown pass. Titans coach Jeff Fisher challenged the catch to no avail.
The Titans then were forced to punt after just four plays, and the Texans put together a 53-yard drive that ended in a 38-yard field goal by Brown late in the first half. That put the Texans up 24-21, giving them their first lead of the season.
Titans kicker Rob Bironas made a 40-yard field goal two seconds before halftime to tie the game. Before the kick, defensive end Mario Williams sacked Collins to set up third-and-16 from the Houston 45. But a five-yard defensive holding penalty on rookie linebacker Brian Cushing gave the Titans a first down and set up Bironas' field goal.
"You give up the plays we gave up in the first half on the road and you're still battling 24-24 at the half, that says a lot about what your guys stand for," Kubiak said. "Hopefully, we can find some consistency in that level of play."
Early in the third quarter, Texans punter Matt Turk pinned the Titans at their own one-yard line with a 58-yard kick. On third-and-10 from the nine, Johnson burst through the middle of the defense for his 91-yard touchdown.
Schaub and the Texans responded again with an 11-play, 66-yard touchdown drive. Johnson had three catches for 21 yards on the drive, and Schaub completed a four-yard pass to tight end Joel Dreessen on fourth-and-two at the Tennessee 35. A pass interference call in the end zone on cornerback Nick Harper gave the Texans first-and-goal from the one. Schaub hit Daniels for the tying score, and the Texans never trailed again.
With 10:29 left to play, the Texans turned back the Titans on fourth-and-six from the Houston 33-yard line. The defense also forced a three-and-out on the Titans' next possession, giving Houston the ball at its own 32 with 7:10 left in the game.
Schaub then marched the Texans 63 yards in nine plays, the biggest a 44-yard pass to Jones on the first play of the drive, to lead to Brown's deciding field goal. Schaub converted a two-yard quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches from the Titans' 15-yard line that kept alive the game-winning drive.
Injuries:Left guard Chester Pitts left the game with a right knee sprain in the second quarter. He did not return. Pitts was rolled up in a pile and down on the field for several minutes afterward. He walked off the field slowly with the assitance of trainers and was replaced by Kasey Studdard.
Titans rookie receiver Kenny Britt left the game with an injury late in the second quarter after being hit near the sideline. Punter Craig Hentrich pulled a calf muscle and was replaced by Bironas for a punt in the fourth quarter.
Wide receiver Kevin Walter (hamstring), cornerback Jacques Reeves (fibula) and wide receiver André Davis (concussion) were among the inactives for the Texans. Titans tight end Bo Scaife and defensive linemen Kevin Vickerson and Sen'Derrick Marks did not play.
For the full list of inactives, click here.