Houston, TX – Despite a tight victory over Houston, Tennessee's slim chances of making the playoffs went awry Sunday afternoon.
Nate Washington caught four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, including the game-deciding 23-yard score late in the fourth quarter, as the Titans took a 23-22 victory over the Texans.
Matt Hasselbeck threw for 297 yards and two scores on 22-of-35 passing for Tennessee (9-7), which was eliminated from postseason contention when Denver lost at home to Kansas City later in the day.
"I think it just means as a team we're heading in the right direction. You won more than you lost so that's a good thing," Titans head coach Mike Munchak said about his team's record. "The good thing is the 9-7 means we're on the right track."
After Washington's touchdown, the Titans held the Texans to a punt and were going to try to run out the clock, but Ahmard Hall fumbled to give Houston the ball back at the Tennessee 36.
With the No. 3 seed in the AFC already locked up and perhaps not wanting to risk an injury in overtime, the Texans went for a two-point conversion.
But Texans tight end Joel Dreessen was whistled for a false start on the first attempt and the snap sailed over Delhomme's head on the second, with Tennessee recovering for the win.
"We wanted to win the football game. That was important," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said about his decision to go for the two-point conversion. "Now we've got to move on. Now we have a very, very big football game for this city and this football team."
T.J. Yates started at quarterback for Houston, but left the game in the first quarter with an injury. Yates completed all four pass attempts for 47 yards in his lone drive. Delhomme replaced him and completed 18-of-28 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown.
After a 22-yard field goal by Neil Rackers on the first snap of the fourth quarter tied the game at 16, neither team crossed the 50-yard line until Tennessee started a drive at its own 44 with seven minutes left in the game.
Faced with a 3rd-and-9 on his own 45, Hasselbeck found Chris Johnson over the middle right at the first down marker to cross midfield. The referees brought out the chains for the measurement and the tip of the ball just barely made contact with the marker to keep the drive alive.
Two plays later, Hasselbeck floated a pass to Washington, who had worked behind his defender and made a leaping 23-yard touchdown catch for a 23-16 Titans lead with 4:31 left in the game.
Delhomme tossed a 40-yard strike near the right sideline to Bryant Johnson on the first play of Houston's ensuing drive to move the ball into Titans territory.
But Tate was hit for a one-yard loss on first down and Delhomme was sacked for a nine-yard loss on second down before having his third-down pass knocked to the ground, forcing a punt and setting up the late fumble by Hall.
Houston marched 90 yards down the field on its first possession with a 13-play drive that lasted almost seven minutes.
The Texans converted two third downs and moved down the field with a mix of short passes and runs before Tate rumbled into the end zone from four yards out.
Yates took several big hits on the drive, though, and left the game with an undisclosed injury.
Each team traded three-and-outs over the next two touches before the Titans took over at their own 28 and drove down to the Houston three. Chris Johnson had a 27-yard run down the left sideline, but the Titans could not push the ball into the end zone and had to settle for a 21-yard Rob Bironas field goal early in the second quarter.
Houston later started a drive at its own three and managed to move near midfield with a couple of big gains, but Delhomme was stripped of the ball by Titans defensive end Dave Ball and Tennessee recovered at the Houston 33.
Hasselbeck turned the favorable field position into a one-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery in the left corner of the end zone for a 10-7 Titans lead.
Rackers knotted the game by splitting the uprights from 52 yards out on the Texans' ensuing possession, but Bironas snuck a 43-yard kick inside the right upright as time expired in the half to give Tennessee a 13-10 lead at the break.
Tate opened the second half with a 56-yard rush up the middle after starting right and cutting back to his left, but Houston would not get another first down and Rackers nailed a 37-yard kick to tie the game at 13.
The Titans regained their three-point lead near the midpoint of the third quarter after a 55-yard reception down the left sideline by Washington set up Bironas' 33-yard kick.
Tennessee leads the all-time series 14-6...Hasselbeck's 297 yards gave him 3,571 for the year, marking his third career season with over 3,500 yards. His day also gave him 33,150 yards for his career, making him the 25th player in NFL history to throw for that many yards...Chris Johnson carried the ball 15 times for 61 yards to give him 1,047 for the year, joining Hall of Famers Earl Campbell and Eddie George as the only players in Titans history to rush for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons...Washington ended the season with 1,023 receiving yards to surpass 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.