It is not where Houston owner Bob McNair wished to be and we already knew that. Several months ago, McNair proclaimed his Texans playoff bound. For emphasis, he repeated it just before his team's dull season-opening loss at home to the Jets.
So, at halftime here, with his Texans locked in a 24-24 scrap with the Titans, McNair was asked in his LP Field suite about how he felt things were going.
"This is a big game,'' he said. "This is a big season.''
He said it like he meant it.
I think the Texans get it.
I think they knew coming into this place, where they have won only once in seven franchise tries, that this would be a nice time to get that second victory. I think after a week of local and national brutal criticism and scorn over just what the Texans are and what exactly they portend to be, there was an urgent sense among them to merge their talent with high-end result.
The Texans won it 34-31, and it was the way they won it -- aggressive, big plays, overcoming their own snafus -- that was impressive. They looked and played enough as one for it to matter. They played with tremendous spirit and resolve.
They made the Titans the 0-2 chums.
They created hope for another day, for another week, for another challenge.
"You have to do something about things if you really plan on being a good team,'' Texans rookie linebacker Brian Cushing said.
They looked confident and resourceful against the Titans.
"You spend a whole offseason getting ready for that one game and you come out at home and play like that, it's shocking,'' Texans running back Steve Slaton said. "We had a lot at stake here today.''
Texans receiver David Anderson said that coach Gary Kubiak told his team on Saturday night: "Let's man up. Let's play for each other.''
Anderson, who made a big third-and-4 catch of 7 yards on Houston's first scoring drive added: "You've got to respond in this league. You can have a reputation for being this or that, a team on the rise, like being said about us, or a team that is a certain playoff team, like being said about the Titans. Well, the games determine who is what and what is what. I try to make my third down plays so I can get more opportunities. And if I can't do that, they will find someone else who can.''
That, alone, captures this league. The state of the Texans.
No one around this club wants to hear any more about what their potential is and what they should do. It is put-up time for the Texans, warts and all.
Kubiak knows this. He and his offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, called a game that threw the playbook at the Titans proud defense. It was full of clever calls and clever moves and it kept the pressure on the Titans defense. There was the third-and-2 Matt Schaub pass from the Tennesssee 19 that Schaub gunned into the end zone for a score to receiver Andre Johnson. And then Schuab and Johnson following that up with a 72-yard hookup on the first play from scrimmage following a Tennessee score.
The Texans were down 7-0 and 14-7 and 21-7 in the first half. They trailed 31-24 in the second half.
They would lose the rushing game in astonishing fashion: It was Tennessee 240 rushing yards, Houston 63.
But Schaub threw a career-most four passing touchdowns and finished with a 127.8 quarterback rating. His 357 passing yards easily surpassed Tennessee's Kerry Collins 216. And Collins fumbled with 1:32 left with the Titans marching for a shot at a tying field goal.
Schaub has been there, stumbling and fumbling away chances for the Texans during their darker moments, searching for answers. This time, he found plenty.
"This is a game of confidence,'' Schaub said. "They are an attacking defense. You have to play them with an attacking offense.''
Texans general manager Rick Smith said in the locker room afterward that he rarely speaks to his team but did one day last week, reminding them who they were, what they had already overcome and what lie ahead.
So, down go the Titans into that 0-2 hole and here come the Texans.
No, Kubiak knows his team has much work ahead. It won though it allowed the Titans to score on a 69-yard Chris Johnson catch and run where Johnson was completely uncovered at the line of scrimmage due to Texans defensive alignment confusion. They won despite allowing Johnson scoring runs of 57 and 91 yards.
The Texans made their share of dropped passes and bungled offensive assignments, but they rose and answered a tough question: Could they avoid the 0-2 bunch? It was a resounding yes.
"I'm worried about a lot of things and I know the difference in this league is very small between winning and losing,'' Kubiak said as he walked to his team bus. "I really appreciate the way we fought back and found a way to win against a really good team that is very good here in this place. This win means a lot to us.''
His owner concurs.