When the Tennessee Titans last saw the Houston Texans, they were humiliated by a rookie quarterback hanging 57 points on them back on Oct. 1.
Such a ugly performance was embarrassing for the Titans as they were victim that day at NRG Stadium to DeShaun Watson’s first real showing that he could be a franchise quarterback in the making. Watson threw for four touchdowns and ran for another.
The fact that Watson, now out for the season with a torn ACL, went on to shred other defenses as well before his unfortunate injury was no consolation for a Titans defense that allowed Watson and the Texans to set numerous franchise and even league records that day.
But in the aftermath of that embarrassment, something good came from that beatdown. It forced the defense to re-evaluate how it was playing, and make some adjustments and do some internal soul searching to right the ship.
“We’re a different team, and especially a different defense from that week. I think since then we’ve been playing pretty solid ball and that really helped wake us up,” said Titans outside linebacker Derrick Morgan, who leads the team with seven sacks.
Since that day, the Titans defense has been giving up slightly over 20 points per game, a number skewed on the high side by 40 points allowed in Pittsburgh two weeks ago, when the offense turned the ball over four times, setting the Steelers up with easier scoring opportunities throughout the night.
Though it hurt, the Titans defenders said they learned something that day, and it changed their attitudes.
“That’s definitely been our mindset since that day. We talked about it as a group that would never have that display again,” defensive end Jurrell Casey said. “It’s been about playing sound football an that’s what we’ve been working on every week since that week.”
Safety Kevin Byard said it not only forced the defense to take inventory of itself, but that it was a watershed moment for the entire Titans team and organization.
“Getting 57 points hung on us was a gut check,” Byard said. “It was a gut check not only for everybody in this room, but also for everybody in this organization.”
And the Titans defenders responded in a positive way, helping lead the team to a 5-2 record since then and first place in the AFC South.
“There was a re-commitment, a refocus on our parts. We were embarrassed after that game.,” Morgan said. “There was nowhere to go but up. So we just kept working and staying diligent to the process.”
Wide receiver Rishard Matthews missed another practice with his hamstring injury. Matthews has not practiced or played since suffering the injury a week ago in a Thursday practice.
Running back DeMarco Murray was out of practice on Thursday due to illness. Center/guard Brian Schwenke returned to the practice field on Thursday after being absent Wednesday due to illness.
Safety Da’Norris Searcy was back and practicing fully after missing Wednesday with an ankle injury. Brian Orakpo was back after getting Wednesday off to rest a sore shoulder.