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Every team has hiccups, off weeks, days when it feels like you put your shoes on the wrong feet. But on Sunday afternoon at a drizzly, muddy Nissan Stadium, it sure felt like the AFC-leading Titans were about to shake off three and a half quarters of uninspired play and knock off the Texans.
With just under four minutes remaining, Tennessee, trailing 19-13, had the ball and the momentum. Texas had gone three-and-out four times in a row, while the Titans had just scored ... plus, you know, the Titans were 8-2 and the Texans were 1-8. The universe was just regaining its proper alignment, right?
Not quite. Ryan Tannehill threw an interception — and, two minutes later, threw another — and just like that, Tennessee was toast. The Titans ended up losing 22-13, yet another victim of an unpredictable season in which the worst place to be is the top of the standings.
Coming into the game, Tennessee had won six straight and stood at the top of the AFC. Houston, meanwhile, last won a game all the way back in early September — a Week 1 victory over Jacksonville.
All of the season's magic seemed to leave Tennessee all at once. Tannehill threw four interceptions overall, three on the Titans' final four drives (not including the one-play surrender at the end of the game.) Without a viable running attack — Adrian Peterson was the Titans' leading rusher, and he had all of 40 yards — Tannehill was aggressively ordinary, throwing 52 times with 35 completions and a single touchdown.
"Offensive football at any level takes 11 guys," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said after the game. "Unfortunately we turned the football over too many times, way too many times. Our defense battled, and our offense certainly was its own worst enemy."
Even the Titans' high points came with asterisks. Tennessee surrendered 19 straight points to begin the game. The Titans' second touchdown only came about as the result of a lucky bounce: Dontrell Hilliard fumbled a short reception on the Houston 3-yard line, the ball tumbled into the end zone, and tight end Anthony Firkser fell on it for the score. Not exactly the sterling drive of a conference leader.
— NFL (@NFL) November 21, 2021
Tennessee won't have any time to feel sorry for itself; the Titans next have a date in Foxboro with the new leaders of the AFC East, the New England Patriots. After that come Jacksonville, San Francisco and Pittsburgh. In the AFC South, Tennessee still has a two-game division lead over Indianapolis.
A playoff berth still appears secure for Tennessee. A good run in the playoffs? That's a whole lot more dubious after Sunday.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.