FRED FAOUR

Texans pick up eighth straight win, beat Titans thanks to a terrific running game

Deshaun Watson had a big game running the ball, as did the Texans. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Texans took another big step in the road to the AFC South title, knocking off Tennessee 34-17 on Monday Night Football. They simply just keep getting it done during an eight-game winning streak that has erased a brutal 0-3 start.

They got it done despite falling in a 10-0 hole early after giving up a 61-yard touchdown pass on a blown coverage.

They got it done primarily because they ran the ball 34 times for 281 yards, including 162 by Lamar Miller, who had a 97-yard burst in the first half.

They got it done because Deshaun Watson was very good both throwing and running the ball. He threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns to Demaryius Thomas on 19 of 24 passing and rushed for another 70 yards and a score. He did not turn the ball over, although he was ruled down by contact on a play that could easily have been a fumble.

They got it done despite a nice game by Marcus Mariota, who completed his first 19 passes and played really well. The Titans were slowed by offensive penalties and six sacks by the Texans, but Mariota was terrific and Tennessee would not have been in the game at all without him. He would finish 21 of 22 for 292 yards and two TDs.

They got it done thanks to Christian Covington (2.5 sacks), J.J. Watt (1.5 sacks), Whitney Mercilus (1.5 sacks) and Jadeveon Clowney (a half sack).

And the Texans got it done because there were two key plays early that went the Texans’ way. Down 10-0, Houston fumbled on a kickoff return, and a Titans player briefly jumped on the ball, but the Texans recovered. They marched down the field and cut the lead to 10-7.

In the second quarter, with the Texans up 14-10, the Titans went for a fourth and one at the Texans’ 3. The defense stuffed the play, and on the first snap after that, Miller broke off his 97-yard touchdown run.

The Texans ran the ball effectively the entire first half, putting up 200 yards, 148 from Miller. Those two plays were the difference in a half the Texans led 24-10. They were able to do just enough in the second half to close the game.

Now the Texans sit at 8-3, with the eight consecutive wins. They lead the AFC South by two games over Indianapolis, which has won five in a row and are 6-5. The Titans fell to 5-6.

It was not perfect. The Texans gave up some big plays in the passing game, and the offense struggled on third down. But it was a solid performance against a team that was desperate.

And the Texans got it done.

 

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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