Texans 24, Titans 21

Texans take control of AFC South with grind-it-out win over the Titans

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The Texans took control of the AFC South again with a big win in Tennessee. It wasn't pretty, but they made enough big plays on both sides of the ball to escape with a victory. Here is how it all played out:

Offense

Positives: The Texans took advantage of a huge Tennessee turnover for their first score. Deshaun Watson threw a perfect pass to Kenny Stills for the TD. Stills has been a really solid addition and added another touchdown later in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead. After blowing a 14-0 lead, they responded with a seven play, 75-yard drive to retake the lead and then get a key field goal. Carlos Hyde had a nice game running the football, with 104 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown. DeAndre Hopkins, held quiet most of the game, came alive in the fourth quarter with 98 yards and finished the game with six catches for 119.

Negatives: Watson's inability to protect the football at times almost cost them the game. And once again, they failed to score on their opening drive. It looked promising, but Watson was fooled by the defense and threw a pick in the end zone. They now have a total of 3 points on 14 opening drives this season. Watson threw another pick in the end zone in the third quarter on a terrible play call by Bill O'Brien and an even worse decision by Watson. It cost them at least three points. Fortunately it did not matter but that was potentially 14 points off the board. The first pick was a great play by the safety, who tricked Watson. The second was just a dumb play.

Defense

Positives: Justin Reid and Whitney Mercilus combined on a massive play to not only keep Tennessee out of the end zone, but set up the Texans first score. Reid knocked a pass loose at the Texans 2 yard line, it bounced into Mercilus' hands and he returned it 88 yards all the way to the Tennessee 12 (see photo above). It was a major play considering the Titans were moving the ball well on the drive and wound up being a 14-point swing. The defense was a different animal in the first half than what they were against Denver, as they held the Titans scoreless. They got a little lucky with a blocked field goal and the deflected interception, but they also sniffed out a fake punt on fourth down to kill another drive.

Negatives: As good as they looked in the first half, they got pushed around in the second as the Titans cut the lead to 14-7 on the opening drive then followed it up with another touchdown drive to tie the score. Throughout the game, the Texans got little pressure on Ryan Tannehill, a problem that has reared its head almost every week since J.J. Watt's injury. They did get a key sack with just over nine minutes in the fourth with a 21-14 lead that caused the Titans to have to punt and also picked one up on the last play of the game. Once again, their prevent defense was awful in the last three minutes, allowing the Titans to march down the field in just over a minute to cut the lead to 24-21. The Texans were able to recover the onside kick and run off most of the game clock, but the Texans have to do a better job in those situations. Fortunately it did not matter.

The bottom line

This was an important win for the Texans, and they got just enough plays on on both sides of the ball to escape with the victory. The Titans were playing very well coming in, so this is a good victory. Watson was solid at times, but also had the two bad turnovers. He was fortunate they did not cost them the game.

Tennessee outplayed the Texans for much of the game, outgaining Houston by almost 60 yards. But the Mercilus play wound up being the difference. That and Watson bouncing back with the huge scoring drive after throwing his second pick and seeing the Titans tie the score.

As they have done in the past, the Texans bounced back from the abysmal Denver loss to get a key victory. They now sit at 9-5, and need to win only one of their two remaining games (at Tampa next week or Tennessee at home in week 17) to clinch the AFC South.

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Photo via: WikiCommons.

This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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