Texans @ Titans: First Look Second Time Around
By Les Bailey
Tennessee Titans backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger will get a third start of the year as we wind down the 2015 NFL season with a week 16 home match-up with the Houston Texans. The Texans won the week 8 meeting 20-6 on November 1st which was the last hurrah for former Titans head coach, Ken Whisenhunt.
The Texans come into Nissan Stadium for the Noon CST start on Sunday at 7-7 on the season, with a one game lead in the AFC South and will not be taking it easy on the Titans. Their one-game lead over the Indianapolis Colts is not a guarantee at this point for a playoff berth.
Mettenberger had a horrible day at NRG Stadium in the last meeting as the Titans brass watched from their owner’s box in Houston. He was 21 of 31 for only 171 yards, no touchdowns and a passer rating of 70.8 yards.
The second-year QB out of LSU spent most of the afternoon running for his life from Whitney Mercilus who recorded 3.5 sacks and J.J. Watt who added 2.5. They kept Mettenberger off balanced all day and held the Titans to two Ryan Succop field goals.
The Texans continue to have a next man up situation at quarterback. Brian Hoyer is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol and newly acquired T.J. Yates on the IR and out for the season with a torn ACL.
Unless Hoyer clears protocol, Brandon Weeden will get the start in Music City and his backup will be B.J. Daniels who was added to the roster on Monday.
Daniels was converted to a receiver in Seattle, where he was on the active roster for 10 games this season. He played in six games and caught two passes for 18 yards in them.
The Titans are in much of the same pickle at quarterback with Marcus Mariota out and no Charlie Whitehurst on the sideline. They have re-signed Alex Tanney from the Indianapolis Colts practice squad.
Tanney (6-4, 220) re-joins the Titans who originally signed him for the final two games of the 2014 season and remained with the team through training camp this year. He was waived following preseason (he was 18-25 for 221 yards, two touchdowns and 125.6 rating in preseason) and spent time on the practice squad with both Buffalo and Indianapolis. Tanney was on the roster of a number of NFL teams, including Kansas City, Dallas and Cleveland, but he has not played in a regular season game.
With the Houston Texans owning the NFL’s 4th ranked defense, this game could get ugly quick. I am very interested to see if interim head coach Mike Mularkey has made any strides with his offensive line.
They couldn’t keep Mettenberger upright in the first meeting under Whisenhunt, now we get round two under Mularkey to see if they can give him some time to air out his big arm this time.
For the most part, Mularkey has kept Marcus Mariota safe during his tenure, but got him hurt again last week in New England. The hit that took the rookie out came on an assignment error from Antonio Andrews, but the offensive line had trouble keeping the pass rush in check as well.
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I think this game boils down to two points.
- Can the Titans secondary keep DeAndre Hopkins in check?
- Can Zach Mettenberger learn to check down to the short passes that move the chains?
The one thing we know about Brandon Weeden from his days with the Dallas Cowboys is he likes to throw the ball down the field. He wasn’t very successful in Dallas, but showed some promise last week against the Colts.
He was only 11 for 18 for 118 yards and one touchdown, but didn’t throw to the other team like he did in Dallas. DeAndre Hopkins lived up to his Pro Bowl status and caught 8 passes for 94 yards, but it was Alfred Blue who carried the ball 20 times for 107 yards that kept the chains moving and this game in check.
Weeden directed an efficient mistake-free offense and let that defense do it’s job.
Next: Marccus Marriota's Season not over yet
If the Titans are to win this one, they will need to improve on the 21 carries for 59 yards they put up against the Patriots last week to help keep J.J. Watt in check, and Zach Mettenberger needs to get his passes out in a hurry.
He needs to limit his shots downfield and turn to a steady dose of short passes to Delanie Walker and his tight ends.
If he continues to air the ball out to Dorial Green-Beckham on every play, you can put this one in the loss column now.