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Texans lose 23-22 to Titans; immediately look forward to 1st playoff game
HOUSTON (AP) ' The Houston Texans didn't spend much time worrying about Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans.
They had much more important concerns with the first playoff game in franchise history just six days away.
Matt Hasselbeck threw two touchdown passes and Houston botched a 2-point conversion at the end of Tennessee's 23-22 victory at Reliant Stadium.
The Texans (10-6) will play Cincinnati (9-7) on Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.
"It's going to be unbelievable," said receiver Kevin Walter, a former Bengal. "We are going to be ready, I tell you that for sure."
Tennessee (9-7) earned its first winning record since 2008 in Mike Munchak's first season, but its postseason fate depended on the outcome of later games in Cincinnati, Oakland and Denver.
When the Broncos lost to Kansas City, the Titans were knocked out of playoff contention.
"I was proud of the guys for bouncing back the last two weeks and putting ourselves in the position to reach the playoffs," Munchak said in a statement, "But we also put ourselves in the position of needing help and it didn't work out for us today."
Houston was locked into the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs before the game began. With the playoff position secured and nothing to lose but more players to injury, coach Gary Kubiak called for a 2-point conversion to avoid overtime and win the game in regulation.
"You would never go for 2 there in any other situation," Kubiak said. "But where we were physically, at the end of the game, I had a tight end (Garrett Graham) playing linebacker. Our team, I had to get them to next week."
Now the Texans will prepare for the biggest game in the team's 10-year history.
"It's a different platform that we've never played at before," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "We're really excited to showcase what we're about as a team and as an organization to the city and to the fans. This is huge and from here on out this is big-time football and we're excited for it."
Rookie starter T.J. Yates left the game after one series and was replaced by Jake Delhomme. Kubiak said Yates had a bruised left shoulder but could've returned if necessary.
"Obviously, I didn't want him to go back in the game," Kubiak said. "We'll know better where we're at (Monday) at this point."
The 36-year-old Delhomme, signed Nov. 29 in the wake of season-ending injuries to starter Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart, completed 18 of 28 passes, including a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson with 14 seconds left.
Kubiak called for a 2-point conversion at the end. But after a false start penalty, backup center Thomas Austin snapped the ball over Delhomme's head and the game was over.
The Texans certainly weren't happy about losing, but won't spend any time thinking about what happened on Sunday.
"We're ripping off the rear-view mirror," tight end Joel Dreessen said. "The regular season is over with, and the Texans are officially invited to the postseason. We open up at home, in one week. And that's our focus right now. It's a whole new season, and we have to play at our best."
Chris Johnson ran for 61 yards, and Rob Bironas kicked three field goals for Tennessee. The Titans needed a Bengals loss and victories by Oakland and Denver to earn a postseason rematch with the Texans back in Houston next week.
The Texans had other concerns after the loss.
Yates was sacked on Houston's first snap by Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan. He completed passes to Dreessen and James Casey for first downs, before Tate and Derrick Ward started alternating touches for the rest of the drive.
Tate finished that drive with a touchdown, but Yates came off the field favoring his left shoulder and went to the locker room.
Titans defensive end Dave Ball sacked Delhomme and knocked the ball loose, and safety Chris Hope recovered at the Texans 33. Hasselbeck threw a 25-yard pass to Jared Cook, then found Donnie Avery in the corner of the end zone to move Tennessee in front.
Delhomme threw a 16-yard pass to Andre Johnson to get Houston moving again. Johnson caught two passes and sat out the second half after missing the previous three games with a strained left hamstring.
Neil Rackers kicked a 52-yard field goal with 1:09 left in the first half, but Bironas booted a 43-yarder on the final play before the break to put Tennessee up 13-10. Bironas extended his own NFL record by kicking a field goal of 40 yards or longer for the 10th consecutive game.
The Texans rallied to tie it at 16-all, but Kubiak had most of his defensive starters on the bench in the fourth quarter. Nate Washington got behind rookie cornerback Brandon Harris and third-string safety Quintin Demps for a 23-yard touchdown with 4:31 remaining.
Texans linebacker Jesse Nading recovered a fumble by Ahmard Hall with less than two minutes left, and Delhomme completed 5 of 6 passes to drive Houston for the late touchdown.
Notes: Wide receiver Andre Johnson played about 20 snaps. Kubiak said he isn't ready to play 70 plays next week, but that he should be able to go 45-50. ... Kubiak said Houston OLB Bryan Braman has a stinger. ... Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips worked from the press box after missing two games following kidney and gall bladder surgery.