TEXANS 34, TITANS 17

The Texans made a prime-time statement in 34-17 victory

The Texans defense sacked Marcus Mariota six times. Tim Warner/Getty Images

After a three-and-out to start the game, the Texans put their foot on the gas and ran all over the Titans in prime-time for a 34-17 home victory less than a week after owner Robert C. McNair passed away. They have reeled off eight consecutive victories and notched a crucial divisional win in a tight AFC playoff race.

Tonight’s victory was the kind of team win Houston needed heading into the final stretch of the season. Offensively, they ran the ball exceptionally well against a Titans defense that was averaging 3.9 yards per rush coming into the game, finishing the night with 282 yards. Lamar Miller exploded to the tune of 162 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries, 97 of them coming on a touchdown run in the second quarter. It was Houston’s third consecutive touchdown drive, giving them 21 unanswered points after Tennessee took a 10-0 lead in the 1st quarter.

He wasn’t the only one to have a big night on the ground. Deshaun Watson ran the ball nine times for 70 yards and a touchdown, including a big 34-yard run in the 4th quarter that led to his second passing touchdown. He also had a great night throwing the ball, finishing with a 130.9 passer rating on 19-of-24 for 210 yards and two touchdown passes. He spread the ball around to nine different receivers, with DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas getting the most receptions.

Thomas scored his first two touchdowns in a Texans uniform to go along with his four catches for 38 yards. Hopkins continues to be Watson’s favorite target, finishing with five receptions for 74-yards. He now has 73 catches for 1,024 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

Not to be outdone, the Texans defense made sure that when Houston got the lead they never relinquished it. They were unable to force any turnovers until a fumble with thirty seconds left in the game; but they sacked Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota six times for minus 43 yards, disrupting any rhythm he thought he had. Mariota did have some big plays in the passing game - his two touchdowns were 61 yards and 48 yards - but only threw for 195 yards otherwise.

The biggest sequence in the game happened in the second quarter. With Houston leading only 14-10 the Titans drove down to the Houston 3-yard line. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel chose to go for it on 4th-and-1 and handed the ball to tight end Luke Stocker for no gain and a turnover on downs. The very next play was Miller’s long touchdown and the momentum swung fully toward the Texans for the rest of the game.

This was a statement win for Houston as they maintain a two-game lead in the division against the surging Indianapolis Colts. Their 8-3 record currently places them in the third seed with a Week 14 home game against the Colts as their only matchup against an opponent with a winning record.

 

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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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