The Tennessee Titans are headed back to the playoffs. They took care of business this afternoon in Houston, beating a Texans team that was resting starters. The result sets up a fascinating matchup next week — one that the Titans can certainly win.
Houston comes out strong
For anyone thinking that the Titans would have it easy today, the Texans made sure to change that to open the game.
It was a 15 play, 75 yard drive that took seven minutes off the clock, ending up in the endzone to make it a 7-0 game. Backup AJ McCarron worked the intermediate game, while the Texans found some room to run to keep the chains moving.
So the Titans came out and got punched in the mouth — on a day when that really wasn’t supposed to happen. How would they respond?
Brown continues to dominate the Texans
Well, we know this team is a little different than ones of the past. One key difference is the presence of rookie receiver A.J. Brown, who started hot once again against Houston. Ryan Tannehill rolled out on an early third and five, finding Brown to move the sticks. Brown turned up the field and picked up a key block, which sent him flying to the endzone.
Derick Roberson ended the following Houston drive, allowing everyone to breathe a little easier.
The Titans went back to work, even pulling out a new wrinkle in the offense. Marcus Mariota came onto the field with Tannehill, who split out to receiver. Mariota fired a dart to A.J. Brown, who went over 1,000 yards on the play.
Things went back to normal from there. Tannehill went back to quarterback, coming back to find Corey Davis to move to the goal line. MyCole Pruitt hauled in the next pass for the score.
After a bumpy start, Tennessee rebounded to take a 14-7 lead.
The Titans had a chance to put more points on the board late in the second quarter, but Tajae Sharpe dropped a fairly routine pass on the sidelines on third down. That missed opportunity took us into halftime with Tennessee up 14-7.
Titans turn to Henry
It was a ten play, ten rushing attempt drive to open the second half, and it was good for six. Eight Derrick Henry runs did the Texans in as Houston’s reserves couldn’t handle the Titans’ first team offensive line.
That easy drive put the Titans firmly in the driver’s seat, up 21-7.
Taiwan Jones provided a spark for Houston on the next drive, however. A couple of first down runs got Houston to midfield. McCarron converted on 4th and two by finding Duke Johnson in the flats. He converted once again on 3rd and ten, finding Steven Mitchell on a catch and run to put Houston in striking distance.
The Texans entered the redzone, once again working Jones to get inside of the five. McCarron finished the job himself, scrambling away from pressure and into the endzone to cut the Tennessee lead to 21-14.
It was an embarrassing drive for Tennessee, who got worked up by a team featuring a couple of backups on the offensive line.
The pressure was put right back on the offense, and the Titans turned back to Derrick Henry. He went over 100 yards on the drive, quickly moving to midfield. Arthur Smith got aggressive from there, dialing up a shot to A.J. Brown. Of course, Brown hauled it in. He was ruled out at the one, and Henry did the rest.
So on a day where the defense was lacking, the offense picked up the slack without issue. Kevin Byard actually put this one on ice, picking off McCarron on fourth down with just over three minutes to play.
Tennessee actually had something left to play for though, scoreboard aside. Derrick Henry was going for the rushing title, and Vrabel chose to keep him in to try and catch Nick Chubb.
A 53 yard touchdown run did the trick. It also put the Titans up 35-14. Henry finished the game with 32 carries for 211 yards and three scores.
The Titans got out of town with a playoff berth — and a rushing title. Not bad.
Tennessee will officially be a part of the playoff field, set to make a trip to New England next weekend. The Patriots lost to the Dolphins today and the Chiefs won, giving Kansas City the No. 2 seed.
Mike Vrabel will get another shot to face Bill Belichick and the Patriots — a matchup that went really well in Nashville last year. But this time he’ll have to go to Foxboro, the place where Titan playoff dreams have gone to die.
This team is different, and that Patriots team is different. Will we see a different result next week?