Houston Texans Outlast the Streaking Titans in Key AFC South Showdown, 24-21
Patrick D. Starr
Standing outside of the visitor locker room, Houston Texans Owner Janice McNair and CEO Cal McNair were shaking each player's hand after their road win over the Tennesee Titans 24-21. The Texans were able to piece together a scrappy win over the Titans despite miscues in the passing game in the red zone, leaving them life to make it a game.
After starting 4-for-4 for 33 yards in the opening drive of the game, Deshaun Watson was picked off at the one-yard line by Titans Kenny Vaccaro. The pass intended for Duke Johnson, but the ball was left hanging in the air just enough for Vaccaro to break on the pass and end a promising first drive for the Texans.
With the Titans pinned deep in their territory after the interception, Ryan Tannehill hit wide receiver, A.J. Brown, for a 60-yard shot play down the right sideline over the trailing Johnathan Joseph.
Angelo Blackson saved the Texans from disaster with a blocking a 45-yard field goal attempt from Ryan Succop in the middle of the first quarter.
The Texans found life after the Titans were driving on when Tannehill threw a slant to tight end Anthony Firsker, and the pass was broken up by safety Justin Reid. The football bounced into the waiting arms of Whitney Mercilus, who returned it for 86-yards to set up the Texans at the Titans 12-yard line.
After a short run, Watson hit Kenny Stills for a 12-yard touchdown with him beating a Titans defensive back Logan Ryan to open up the scoring for the Texans.
Stills was not finished in the first half after the Texans defense forced a crucial three-and-out after the touchdown. Watson hit Stills again with a 16-yard touchdown pass to open up a 14 point lead.
To start the second half, the Titans put together a 15-play 76-yard drive capped off by a Tannehill one-yard run on a 4th and one situation. The Texans stuffed the Titans three times from inside the two to force it to that fourth down play.
The Texans responded back, putting together a six-play drive of 8 plays and 60-yard only to have it end in disaster. Watson was picked on poor decision throwing into double coverage. Watson's pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage, allowing Jayon Brown to intercept the pass.
The Titans were able to capitalize and walk it downfield on the Texans defense marching it down the field for 80 yards on seven plays for a touchdown. Tannehill was able to hit Brown for a 5-yard touchdown pass, but the lack of pass rush gave him plenty of time for Brown to come open late.
Despite the tie game, the Texans responded in big fashion with Carlos Hyde and DeAndre Hopkins leading the way. Hopkins pulled in a key 35-yard reception from Watson to get the chains moving. Hyde capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to put the Texans up by a touchdown. Hyde's 10-yard run ended up being enough to give Hyde 1,008 yards rushing and his first every 1,000 yard rushing season in his career.
A late 29-yard field goal by Ka'imi Fairbairn put the Texans up by ten. A late garbage-time touchdown by the Titans was not enough to overcome the deficit with the late surge by the Texans in the 4th quarter.
With the win, the Texans can clinch the AFC South with a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Texans win over the Titans give them a 90% chance to win the division according to FPI.
Texans Notes vs the Titans
DeAndre Hopkins has now recorded a reception in each of his 109 games to start his career, which is the 7th-longest streak to start a career in the Super Bowl era & 5th-longest active reception streak.
Hopkins has recorded at least 40 receiving yards in 17 consecutive games, which is the second-longest active streak in the NFL. He recorded 17-straight games with at least five receptions and 40 receiving yards, which is the 4th-longest streak in NFL history.
Hopkins notched his 2nd-consecutive game with 100 receiving yards. It was Hopkins 5th 100-yard performance this season and the 30th of his career, which is the second-most through seven seasons in Texans history (Andre Johnson, 31).
Deshaun Watson is also the 3rd player in NFL history to record over 25 passing TDs and seven rushing TDs while maintaining a passer rating above 100 through the first 14 games of a season (Steve Young in 1994 and Lamar Jackson in 2019).
Watson also became the first player in NFL history to record consecutive seasons with over 25 passing TDs and five rushing TDs. In fact, Watson's two seasons with 25 pass TDs & 5 rush TDs tie Steve Young (1994, 1998) for the most such seasons in a career in NFL history.
Watson eclipsed 9,500 career passing yards, which passes Peyton Manning (9,475) for the sixth-most passing yards by a player in his first 37 career games in NFL history.
Watson joined Dan Marino, Kurt Warner, and Patrick Mahomes as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 70 touchdowns within their first 36 career games.
Zach Cunningham has posted six games with 10-or-more tackles this season, which ties Brian Cushing (2009) for the 4th-most double-digit tackle games in a season in Texans history.
Benardrick McKinney eclipsed 100 total tackles on the season for the second-straight year and the third time in his NFL career. McKinney's three seasons of 100-plus tackles ties for the second-most in Texans history (DeMeco Ryans, four, 2006-09).
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