TITANS 20, TEXANS 17
Special team blunders and rusty offense lead to another Texans loss
The Texans stuck with their game plan, shook off more early season rust, but still fell to the Titans 20-17 on the road. Play wasn’t good early, and the Titans looked like they were going walk all over their divisional opponent. But once again, a steady defensive effort kept the game manageable, and it came down to a final drive for Houston that ended with Deshaun Watson completing a meaningless pass over the middle after wasting precious seconds scrambling while time ran out.
The Texans defense came out firing hard against a Derrick Henry led rushing attack. The secondary got a new look because starting cornerback Kevin Johnson was added to injured reserve this past week. The change put Kareem Jackson back at cornerback and gave rookie Justin Reid his first career start at safety. J.J. Watt was getting into the backfield early and often and an injury to Christian Covington earned another rookie, Duke Ejiofor, his first start and his first career sack.
The first quarter was forgettable for Houston. The offense looked like it was repeating the same effort it gave in last week’s loss to New England. Missed passes and missed field goals left a lot of worry about how they could get back in the game after the Titans jumped out to an early 14-0 lead after just two possessions. The first of those scores coming on a 66-yard fake punt throw from safety Kevin Byard to fellow defensive back Dane Cruikshank. They would get another one on the following drive after missed tackles in the secondary led to an 18-yard touchdown by wide receiver Taywan Taylor.
Houston settled down and went to work behind another solid effort from the running game. Lamar Miller kept the ball moving with 14 carries for 68 yards, Watson added 44 yards, while Alfred Blue turned in another 36 yards of his own. Houston aired it out plenty while a close game was playing out. Watson finished with 310 yards on 22 of 32 passing with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
After missing last week with injury, Will Fuller was the leader in receptions. He hauled in 8 passes for 113 yards and 1 touchdown. DeAndre Hopkins had a solid game too. He caught 6 balls for 110 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Hopkins caught the first Texans score with just under a minute to play in the first half to cut the score to 14-7. Houston kept momentum in their favor to start the second half and on consecutive drives to end the third quarter and start the fourth they took the lead consecutive scores. The first was a Ka’imi Fairbairn 34-yard field goal and the second was Fuller’s 39-yard diving touchdown over cornerback Malcom Butler.
The Titans leaned heavy on the running game while their starting quarterback Marcus Mariota was sidelined by an elbow injury. Tennessee ran the ball 34 times for 100 yards while they only threw it 22 times and were held to just 183 yards (quarterback Blaine Gabbert was held to just 117 yards). They spent most of the game living off their early success, trying hard to keep Houston from coming back in the game.
After the score became knotted at 17 in the fourth quarter the play slowed and became a grind it to victory effort. The defense allowed the Titans to march 62 yards in 5 minutes and 36 seconds on their final drive to take the lead on a 31-yard field goal.