Titans’ playoff hopes plummet over the course of two snaps

HOUSTON — The Tennessee Titans started fast against the Houston Texans on Monday night.

In desperate need of a win to stay alive in the race for the AFC South division title or a wild-card playoff spot, the Titans took an early 10-point lead before the tide was turned on two plays early in the second quarter.

According to ESPN’s FPI, a win would have given the Titans a 40 percent chance to make the playoffs. The 34-17 loss to the Texans reduced Tennessee’s playoff chances to 13.7 percent. The Titans fell to 5-6, while the Texans won their eighth consecutive game.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel has shown he’s not afraid to go for it on fourth down. Monday’s game was no different. Down 14-10, Vrabel showed faith in his offensive line by going for it on fourth-and-1 at Houston’s 3-yard line. However, the decision to hand it off to tight end Luke Stocker on the fullback dive did not pan out. It was Stocker’s first career NFL carry, and it failed miserably as he was tackled for no gain by Texans defensive tackle Christian Covington.

Tennessee had the numbers in their favor if they decided to run power to the left side, where Dennis Kelly lined up as a tackle eligible next to left tackle Taylor Lewan. Instead, the Titans tried to fool the Texans by running away from the strong side of the formation.

After turning it over on downs, the usually reliable Titans defense gave up a 97-yard touchdown run by Houston running back Lamar Miller on the very next play. Tennessee was hoping to get the defensive stop and field position after a punt. Instead, Miller demolished the eight-man front and outraced everyone breaking off the longest touchdown run of the season.

The two plays accounted for a 10-point swing and led to an avalanche of 20 unanswered points by the Texans. It also might have ended the Titans’ playoff chances.

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