Add Ryan Tannehill and three members of the Titans’ offensive line to the list of injuries that Tennessee is dealing with this year — all in the midst of a chase for the AFC South crown. With a surging Jacksonville squad on their heels, the Titans had to win today to keep the division lead.
Not that it really matters — everything seems to be coming down to that week 18 matchup in Jacksonville. Still, snapping a four-game losing streak seemed like a must today just to get the ball going back in the right direction.
Derrick Henry was certainly up for the task to start. A 48-yard touchdown run got the scoring going today in a cold one at Nissan Stadium. Henry broke free, just as he usually does against Houston.
The Texans quickly answered though, although in unconventional fashion. Davis Mills fumbled trying to get across the goal line, but Rex Burkhead was able to recover for a touchdown.
Early on, Malik Willis didn’t have much time. No Ben Jones, Nate Davis or Dillon Radunz amplified Tennessee’s pass protection issues, and Willis didn’t have a chance early because of it. With the Titans failing to sustain any drive, the Texans took advantage with their two-quarterback attack. Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel had it working early, playing against the banged up Tennessee defense.
Houston took a 10-7 lead in the second quarter, and held that all the way through the halftime break.
A pivotal moment came to open the third quarter, as the Texans opted to go for it on fourth down at midfield. The Titans stuffed Jeff Driskel on an option look, and suddenly found themselves in scoring range. Treylon Burks took an end around to the redzone, then Henry bulldozed down to the 15. Malik Willis did the rest.
The first career touchdown for Malik gave the Titans a 14-10 lead.
Davis Mills was picked off on a batted ball on the next drive by Jack Gibbens, but the Titans couldn’t do anything with that opportunity. Both sides traded a couple of punts over the next few drives, as Denico Autry really made things tough on the Texans up front.
We entered the fourth quarter with the Titans leading 14-10.
Tennessee was on the move again inside of Houston territory, when Derrick Henry fumbled. The Texans recovered it, keeping their chances of an upset win alive. Mills found a chunk play by hitting Phillip Dorsett to get in scoring range. The Texans quickly worked it down inside of the ten after that.
Denico Autry’s big game continued. A big coverage sack forced a third and goal from the ten, and the Texans couldn’t convert. The field goal team came on with eight minutes to play, and Ka’imi Fairbairn converted.
So we had a 14-13 game midway through the fourth quarter, with the Titans badly needing to put a drive together. Instead, Todd Downing went run-Swaim screen-run.
Houston would get the ball back with five minutes to play. Mills would find Dorsett for another chunk play, who beat Roger McCreary down the field. He came back to find Amari Rodgers down the sideline on the next play. Just like that, Houston found the redzone.
Brandin Cooks hauled in the go-ahead touchdown pass with 2:52 to play. Houston’s two-point attempt was no good, but the Texans held a 19-14 lead.
Downing turned to Henry, who was running angry to start the drive. Back to back chunks moved the sticks to start the drive, then Malik kept on a read option look to get to the 50 yard line before the two minute warning.
And then disaster struck — Willis threw a pick. He stared down his target and was picked off by linebacker Christian Harris.
Willis would get one final chance, but his hail mary attempt was picked off.
Once again, the Titans had their chances to put this game away, but a Derrick Henry fumble and a flat out bad second-to-last drive from Todd Downing did them in.
Final score: Texans 19, Titans 14.
With the loss, Tennessee officially loses the lead in the AFC South. Again though, at least purely in the standings, it doesn’t matter. Now officially, Jacksonville and Tennessee WILL play in week 18 for the AFC South crown.
The Titans are back in action on Thursday night against the Cowboys, but it means absolutely nothing for Tennessee.