The Tennessee Titans hadn’t played the Houston Texans in over 55 weeks and it turned out to be worth the wait.
It seems every time these two get together it’s like their playing for the soul of the AFC South.
Coming into the game, Tennessee, riding a four-game winning streak, has had a mid-season resurgence. The renaissance or shall I say resurrection of quarterback Ryan Tannehill has bolstered the Titans into playoff contention. Since the removal of previous starter Marcus Mariota it’s been night and day. In weeks 1-6 the Titans only mustered 16.3 points a game. From weeks 7-14 they’ve improved to 31.4 ppg. That’s Michael Jordan 90’-91’ sort of scoring.
On the other side, Houston has been up and down as well. A week after taking down New England, the Texans preceded to get beat out by the hapless Broncos. But with a potent receiving corps, a quarterback that can beat you with his feet, as well as his arm and a defense that has its flashes the Texans, can beat any team.
Much like my last few relationships the 1st quarter was short, unproductive and in the end, nobody liked each other. Well actually, there were some lowlights.
After Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro picked off DeShaun Watson in the end zone the Titans sought to strike. Ryan Tannehill struck super rookie A.J. Brown in stride for a 60 yard gain it was all set up for kicker Ryan Succop.
“Shockingly” the low kick was blocked. Angelo Blackson got a mitt up to block the 45-yard attempt and get the Texans the ball back.
After a lengthy 11 play drives that ate up 5:59 off the clock, the Titans would see the Titans crap the bed. Tennessee is usually money in the RedZone. Tannehill would throw a pass intended for Anthony Firkser but picked off by Texan defensive end Whitney Mercilus at the Houston 2.
Mercilus would return the ball to the Tennessee Titans 12. Two plays later and DeShaun Watson would hit Kenny “The Jet” Stills for the 12 yard Houston Texans touchdown.
After a three and out by Tennessee, the Houston squad would get a chance to go up two scores.
Nine plays later and Watson would again find Stills this time from 16 yards for the Texan touchdown to make it 14-0. Both DeAndre Hopkins and Stills were only covered over top by the free safety so Watson was free to pick his poison.
Tennessee struggled in the first half covering the Stills/Watson/Will Fuller V receiving corp of Houston, but after receiving the opening kickoff the Titans turned it up and went to work.
The Titans would then eat up 9:26 off the clock while marching 81 yards. 44 of those would be via the good ol’ Titans’ rushing attack. Houston would stuff Henry twice at the goal line and stopping a pass and catch. Fitting that on fourth down from the one Tannehill would bootleg left and score on a one-yard run.
Texan lead cut to seven.
Led by a 31 catch by Fuller V, the Texans looked poised to score and put away Tennessee. But from the Titans four-yard line Watson’s pass to Fuller would get tipped by lineman Jeffery Simmons and picked by linebacker Jayon Brown in the endzone. Thus ending the Texans threat.
The Titans would capitalize and end the drive with a Tannehill touchdown pass to super rookie A.J. Brown from five yards out to tie it up. Brown would finish the day with 114 yards receiving.
Houston would counter on the next drive with a steady dose of Watson running and Hopkins catching as Tennessee looked hapless. You can cover Hopkins but you leave the magician DeShaun Watson all alone.
Carlos Hyde would score from the left end from the 10 taking back the lead.
After a Tennessee four-and-out, the Texans would play keep away and waste more time than I did in college.
A twelve play drive by Houston forced the Titans to use all their timeouts late in the fourth and set up a Ka’imi Fairbairn 29 yard field goal. This put up Houston 24-14 with 3:36 left in regulation.
Tannehill would go to work going 6/7 on the ensuing drive. The Titans only ate 1:22 off the clock and capped it off with a Dion Lewis 11 yard touchdown. 24-21, Texans.
Tennesee would get the ball back with 17 seconds but a sack of Tannehill effectively ended the game.
Houston ends up at 9-5 and takes sole possession of first in the AFC South. Tennessee falls to 8-6 but these two will meet in the season finale possibly for the conference title.
Before then Houston will visit Tampa next Saturday and the Titans host the Saints Sunday.
Houston Texans Tennessee Titans Fun Facts
Titan kicker Ryan Succop is 1/6 this season in field goal attempts. Tennessee as a team is 8/18. The 44.4% by the Titans is the lowest since the St. Louis Cardinals kicked 45.8% in 1986.
Running back Carlos Hyde has been making waves for Houston. He not only rushed for 104 yards but also tallied his first career 1,000-yard season. He has definitely been a valuable addition.
Tennessee tight end Jonnu Smith not only had five catches for 60 yards but had a 57-yard run. That run was the longest by a tight end since Rich Caster broke off a 60 yarder for the Jets in 1976.
DeShaun Watson has notched his second straight 25 passing touchdown/7 rushing touchdown season. The only other QB to have two seasons that matched that mark was Buccaneer & 49er legend Steve Young. Young did it in 1994 and 1998.
When going over 30 attempts Titan QB Ryan Tannehill is now 2-18 as a starter. He threw 36 attempts Sunday.
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