Titans 42, Texans 36, OT

5 observations from the Titans win over the Texans

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The unbeaten Tennessee Titans came into Sunday's game appearing to be vulnerable. They were coming off their biggest win of the season on a short week after a long Covid layoff. Even though it was a division opponent, the Texans were 1-4 and hard to get up for. It had all ear marks of a trap game.

It was a trap, indeed, but the Titans escaped it, scoring with four seconds left to tie it, then scoring a touchdown to win an overtime thriller 42-36.

The Texans came up with big plays in all phases, and nearly stole a win from a team that was clearly better than they were. The loss drops the Texans to 1-5, while the Titans remained unbeaten. Five observations from the game:

1) J.J. Watt can still change a game. Watt came up with a huge sack fumble in the third quarter to set up the Texans for a score that gave them the lead. Watt also made some big plays in the run game. Watt is still the best player on the Texans defense, getting double teamed and held almost every play, yet he still has an impact. His play almost helped them win it.

2) The running game is still a problem on both sides of the ball. The Texans were always going to struggle to stop Derrick Henry, and they lived down to expectations. Henry had 212 yards on 20 carries and the Titans ran for 263 yards and an average of 9.7 per carry, including a 94-yard run. It's hard to win games when you allow that kind of running. The Texans, meanwhile ran the ball OK (27 for 92 yards), but were never able to stay consistent. The run game set up play action for Tennessee, and the Titans were able to move the ball easily throughout.

3) Uncharacteristic mistakes almost cost the Titans. Tennessee doesn't turn the ball over or have a lot of negative plays. Sunday, they had several. The sack fumble led to a score. They had a field goal blocked and another chippy missed. An interference call set up a touchdown. A Ryan Tannehill interception on a deep ball they did not need to throw. A 12 men on the field penalty late in the game. Those are the kinds of things you would expect from the 1-4 team. That the Titans were able to overcome that says a lot about how good they are.

4) Romeo Crennel showed some guts. Twice on the final drive, he went for it on fourth down, including fourth and goal. He also went for two with 1:50 left and the Texans up seven. It failed, but he had a chance to end the game right there. At least he played to win, but that is a decision that will be debated endlessly.

5) Deshaun Watson had one of his best games in a while. Watson was 28 of 37 for 335 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked twice, but he came up with clutch play after clutch play. The Texans needed every one of them, and it was not quite enough.

The bottom line: The Titans were sloppy, which gave Houston a chance to win. The Texans were not able to pull it off, but they should be encouraged by the offense. The defense continues to be a nightmare against the run, and there does not appear to be any help in sight. At 1-5, any hopes of salvaging this season are slipping away.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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