On a day where the Titans were likely going to struggle offensively, Mike Vrabel dove into his bag of tricks early. After the Titans’ first offensive drive stalled, Tennessee dialed up a fake punt that saw a safety to safety connection for the game’s opening touchdown. It was Kevin Byard taking the short snap and hitting a wide open Dane Cruikshank for a long touchdown to kick things off in Nashville today.
The Titans — playing without their top three tackles and quarterback Marcus Mariota — likely knew they would have to steal some points today. This was a bold call to get things rolling.
The second drive of the game was a beauty for the Titans. They put it all together, throwing the kitchen sink at the Texans. Derrick Henry found success running out of the wildcat, while Blaine Gabbert completed a couple of short throws to keep the chains moving. Gabbert capped off the drive with a screen pass to Taywan Taylor, who made a defender miss to score.
To end the first quarter, the Titans held a 14-0 lead.
Just when you thought the Texans were cooking up an answer, Adoree’ Jackson came through for the defense. His first career interception came in the endzone as Deshaun Watson was looking to strike deep. It was a huge play to keep Houston down early on.
It wasn’t much longer until the Texans finally did strike, however. Titan-killer DeAndre Hopkins got free in the middle of the field and Watson found him to cut the lead in half, just before the halftime break.
A quick three and out for the Titans to open the third quarter had the Texans in position to close the gap. What started as a promising drive ended a Houston punt, following a big sack on an aggressive blitz from Dean Pees.
The Titans struggled to get anything done out of the halftime break, but the Texans didn’t have that problem. Houston added a field goal in the third quarter, then added a touchdown on a Watson-Will Fuller bomb on the next drive. Once again, it was Malcolm Butler giving up the deep ball for the Titans.
After starting so well, the Titans found themselves down 17-14 in the fourth quarter.
Finally — aided by a Jadeveon Clowney personal foul (who wasn’t dressed for this one) — the offense showed a pulse. A strike over the middle to Tajae Sharpe put the Titans in field goal range. After the drive stalled, Ryan Succop tied things up at 17-17.
Deshaun Watson got the ball back and immediately went to work on a tired defense. He used his legs to convert on third down, then found a wide open Bruce Ellington over the middle to flip the field. However, the Titans stood tall, getting pressure from Harold Landry. They forced a Texans punt, giving Gabbert another chance to take the lead.
It was Dion Lewis kicking things off, grabbing 10 yards and a first down to start the drive. It was then Corey Davis on a crosser, picking up another chunk and another first down. The Titans were inching into field goal range, then potential disaster struck.
Gabbert saw his pass get batted into the air — then he caught it instead of batting it down. He then tried to throw it again, which is obviously illegal. All that ended up happening was a five yard penalty, however.
Corey Davis took a screen on the next play, bringing Tennessee into the redzone with two minutes to play. A couple of Derrick Henry runs force the Texans to use their final timeouts, but Dion Lewis was stuffed on a 3rd and one rush attempt.
Ryan Succop drilled his field goal attempt to regain the lead, but left 1:00 on the clock for Watson to go to work.
Watson immediately got it to Hopkins at midfield, but lost a lot of time off of the clock in the process. With 17 seconds left on the clock, the Texans ran a bizarre play where Watson ran all of the time off of the clock.
Watson’s pass fell incomplete, and the Titans held on 20-17.