Texans have 7 sacks, force 3 turnovers to beat Titans 20-6
HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans are heading into their bye week feeling good after a win and with a chance to move into a tie for first place in the AFC South.
''I think that gets overlooked a little bit,'' linebacker Brian Cushing said. ''We're still in it.''
A 21-yard touchdown reception by DeAndre Hopkins put Houston on top in the second quarter and the Texans (3-5) didn't trail after that. Nate Washington's 42-yard TD catch extended the lead to 17-6 in the third.
Zach Mettenberger threw for 171 yards with an interception in his second straight start in place of rookie Marcus Mariota, who is out with a knee injury. Mettenberger was hurried and harassed all day to remain winless in eight career starts, with three against the Texans.
The Titans (1-6) had three turnovers in their sixth straight loss since a win over Tampa Bay in the opener.
''It's hard when you lose one game, much less what's happened the last six,'' Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ''Our defense is playing really well. That gives you a chance. Got to fix (those) special teams mistakes and do a better job offensively.''
Whitney Mercilus had a career-high 3 1/2 sacks and J.J. Watt tied a career high with nine quarterback hits and added 2 1/2 sacks, including one where he caused a fumble that the Texans recovered early in the fourth quarter.
A 24-yard field goal after that fumble pushed Houston's lead to 20-6.
Hoyer started his third straight game for Houston after losing his job in the season-opener to Ryan Mallett, who was released on Tuesday after missing last week's charter flight to Miami.
A 44-yard field goal cut the lead to 10-6 midway through the third quarter.
Hopkins caught four passes on a drive that ended with a 42-yard touchdown reception by Washington to push the lead to 17-6 with about four minutes left in the third.
Some things to know about Houston's win over the Titans:
WATT'S JUST FINE: Last year's Defensive Player of the Year Watt, who tied a career high with 20 1/2 sacks last season, has more sacks through eight games this season (8 1/2) than he did through eight games last year (7).
''So maybe y'all could stop talking about how down of a year I'm having,'' he said with a laugh. ''That would be good.''
THIRD DOWN WOES: The Titans were 1 of 9 on third downs last week and were even worse this week, converting just one of 12 opportunities. ''Our third down situation, we've had opportunities to make some plays and we didn't make them,'' Whisenhunt said. ''Whatever mistakes were made, you've got to keep working and try to clean those things up.''
JOHNSON'S BIG DAY: Houston rookie first-round pick Kevin Johnson had his first career interception and likely saved a touchdown with a hard hit on Kendall Wright after a catch in the third quarter. ''My teammates have been showing me a lot of love and I have been enjoying it,'' Johnson said. ''I am happier that we got the win more than the interception.''
CLOWNEY INJURED AGAIN: Houston outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney injured his back in the first quarter and returned to the game twice before leaving for good in the second quarter. O'Brien did not have an update on his condition and he was not made available to reporters after the game and the Texans said he left before the locker room opened after the game. Clowney has struggled with injuries since the Texans selected him first overall in last year's draft and played just four games last season before having season-ending microfracture surgery. This latest setback has some wondering if he'll ever be able to stay healthy long enough to contribute.
''Hopefully they're things that have happened in clusters in the beginning of his career and he'll be able to recover from them and be a great player for us here in Houston,'' O'Brien said. ''But I don't think you can determine that on a short body of work like a year and a half.''
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