Monday, October 27, 2014
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Foster scores 3 TDs as Texans rout Titans

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[October 27, 2014]  NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Looking desperately for a spark for its struggling offense, Tennessee turned to rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger on Sunday.

On the other hand, all Houston had to do to end its three-game losing streak was hand the ball to Arian Foster.

The Texans running back rushed 20 times for 151 yards and scored three touchdowns, leading his team to an easy 30-16 win at sold-out LP Field.

Foster found the end zone on a 34-yard run, snapping a 3-3 second quarter tie, and plunged in from the 1 with 5:42 left in the third quarter for a 27-3 lead which sent some in the audience of 69,143 streaming for the exits.

Foster, who also caught a 5-yard scoring strike from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with 12:35 remaining in the third, has rolled up 766 yards in just seven games. He missed Houston's Sept. 21 loss at the New York Giants with a hamstring injury.

"He has a really good ability to get the ball north and south after his first cut," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "I always tell (running backs coach) Charles London, 'That's great coaching.'"

Meanwhile, Mettenberger's first NFL start went about like it figured to -- some bright spots with some rookie errors. The sixth-round draft pick from LSU completed 27 of 41 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns on 6- and 12-yard throws to tight end Delanie Walker and wide receiver Justin Hunter, respectively.

But Mettenberger didn't get much help from a running game which managed only 36 yards on 13 carries, or an offensive line which left him vulnerable to Houston's strong pass rush. Defensive end J.J. Watt notched two sacks, giving him nine in eight games.

His first sack led to a Mettenberger fumble that was recovered by defensive end Tim Jamison at the Titans 20. It turned into Foster's touchdown reception three plays later, giving the Texans (4-4) a 20-3 lead.

"I saw some things to build on," Mettenberger said, "but we just have to keep working hard. We have to eliminate the penalties and turnovers."

Mettenberger was named the starter Thursday over Jake Locker, a 2011 first-round pick who has struggled with injuries and inaccuracy in his four seasons, and career backup Charlie Whitehurst.

Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph said defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel mixed coverages in an attempt to keep Mettenberger off-balance.

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"A guy starting his first game, you want to throw different looks at him," Joseph said. "At the same time, you want to stay tight in coverage with the guys so that (Mettenberger) has to make contested throws."

Mettenberger's big mistake was an ill-advised throw for Walker late in the first half that was picked off by strong safety D.J. Swearinger and returned 25 yards to the Tennessee 48. It led to one of three Randy Bullock field goals, a 29-yarder with 19 seconds left that made it 13-3 Texans.

Fitzpatrick, who played with the Titans last year, connected on 19 of 35 passes for 227 yards despite being sacked five times. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had five catches for 95 yards.

Tennessee (2-6) lost for the sixth time in seven games, but is hoping next week's bye helps it bounce back for the season's second half.

"Absolutely, it helps us," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We'll get some players back, good players that can help us. We'll get a chance to get a little bit of a break."

NOTES: Tennessee RB Shonn Greene was active despite being arrested Friday night on multiple charges after trying to evade a ticket for parking in a handicapped spot, and started. Greene ran for a yard on the first play, his only carry of the day. ... Houston LB Brian Cushing (knee) was declared inactive and replaced by Akeem Dent. ... Texans LB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) was active for the first time since the season opener, although Whitney Mercilus started in his place.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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