Bill O’Brien took over play calling duties on offense for the Texans game on Sunday against the Titans. The result was an offense that looked more aggressive early, but looked like the same struggling group as the game went on.
Regardless, the Texans did what they always do — beat the Tennessee Titans, this time 27-20. The Titans had a chance to tie the game late, but the Texans defense came up with a big stop on fourth down.
The Texans have now won five straight against Tennessee and eight of the last nine meetings overall. They are 3-1 on the season, two games ahead of the rest of the AFC South, which is all 1-3.
But it was not easy. Or pretty. However, after what happened in New England, they needed this one badly.
We will start with the positives.
Will Fuller played a terrific game, with 7 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. He also had a punt return for a touchdown that proved to be the winning score.
On defense, J.J. Watt was clearly missed. But Whitney Mercilus and Vince Wilfork played well. After a first half where the Titans gashed them in the running game, the Texans made some adjustments, although the Titans did put up 124 yards in the running game.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, a threat with his feet, did not hurt the Texans much in that regard in this game, a clear concern after last week’s debacle in New England.
The special teams in general were better. Besides Fuller’s return, they blocked a punt that could have easily been a touchdown, but the play was blown dead by the refs, who clearly erred.
Osweiler completed 25 of 37 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. He did some good things, but has to protect the ball better. On that note…
The negatives? The two interceptions by Osweiler, and almost a third. In all three cases he forced the ball to DeAndre Hopkins. In almost every instance this year, Hopkins has lost 50-50 balls, and they have led to interceptions. More accurate passing would help, but so would a more aggressive Hopkins. He simply has not been close to the player he was last year when he has to battle for the ball.
The secondary had its share of breakdowns on all of the Titans scoring drives. Kareem Jackson appeared to injure his hamstring and left the game. The put some pressure on Mariota, but only had one sack, that one by Jadeveon Clowney, who did not play well other than that play.
A fourth and inches attempt that would have likely iced the game late in the fourth failed miserably.
But even with that, the Texans managed to get it done. Those are things that will need to be cleaned up against better opponents moving forward.
The first half was a mixed bag. The first two series, the Texans offense was unstoppable. Osweiler looked like a superstar. C.J. Fieodorowicz looked like a real football player for the first time in his career. Houston raced out to a 14-0 lead and it looked like the Texans were going to run away with it.
But the defense’s inability to stop the run and a couple blown coverages — plus the first of the obligatory Osweiler interceptions trying to force the ball to Hopkins — led to a 17-all tie late in the half. After the incredible start, Osweiler started having accuracy issues.
And the Texans coaching staff — consistently one of the worst at clock management — once again completely botched it at the end of the half, incurring a delay of game penalty out of a time out. Fortunately, they were bailed out by an interference call on fourth down that allowed them to escape the half with a 20-17 lead. Then they inexplicably pooched the kickoff out of bounds, giving the ball to the Titans at the 40. The Texans coaching staff simply looked comical for that stretch. The only saving grace is that it was not Bill Belichick on the other sideline this time. And the Titans players aren’t the Patriots. They contributed a couple stupid penalties of their own to help the Texans survive the half.
In the second half, the Texans held the Titans to just three points and won the game on Fuller’s return.
It wasn’t easy. But in the end, they did what they always do. They beat the Titans.