Titans Blow 16-Point Lead, But Hold Off Texans For Incredible Win

Photo by the author.

By Terrance Turner

Today, the Tennessee Titans made the playoffs with a loss by Miami. They slugged it out with the Houston Texans today in an edge-of-your-seat match that went right down to the wire. Today’s match started off slow, with a field goal apiece by both teams. But at the start of the second quarter, the offense lit up. Titans running back Derrick Henry took off, breaking tackles — including one by defensive end J.J. Watt — to streak down the field for the touchdow. Henry scored the game’s first touchdown, putting the Titans ahead 10-3.

After another field goal by the Texans, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill found receiver A.J. Brown for the touchdown. That extended the Titans’ lead, making it 17-6. A touchdown on the Texans’ drive was overturned; receiver Brandin Cooks stepped just outside the lines as he caught the ball. The Texans settled for a field goal, which Fairbairn kicked through. It was 17-9 at halftime.

As the second half began, the Titans put together a drive that included a 29-yard catch-and-run by Brown (?) and a crucial catch by tight end Anthony Firkser. The Firkser catch took the team into the end zone. Then Tannehill handed the ball to Henry, who jogged untouched into the end zone for the touchdown. That made it 24-9.

But the Texans put together a winning drive of their own. Watson found Cooks for the TD. But kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the extra point. That made it a nine-point game. Tennessee padded the lead again on their next drive. The key, again, was Henry, who broke three tackles and slammed into another Texans defender as he ran. Then, as a fifth Texans defender tried to tackle him, Henry spun and landed on the ground, near the five-yard line. Tannehill kept the ball and dashed into the end zone to make it 31-15.

Watson found Cooks for another TD. But the two-point conversion failed, making it 31-21. The Texans caught a break, however, on the Titans’ next drive. Henry fumbled the ball. The Texans recovered and rapidly made it to the goal line. David Johnson ran in for the touchdown. That made it a three-point game: 31-28.

A.J. Brown made a crucial catch for the first down. Texans’ Charles Omenihu hit Tannehill in the face just after he threw the ball. Omenihu was flagged for roughing the passer, which added 15 yards to the end of the play. Automatic first down. The Texans later scored. Pharoah Brown caught the touchdown, to give the Texans the lead. They led for the first time — 35-31 — after scoring 20 unanswered points.

With time ticking away, the Titans mounted a drive. A rushing touchdown by Henry was wiped out by a holding call from the refs — which even the announcers disagreed with. But no challenge flag was thrown. The clock ran down even further, hitting the two-minute warning.

As the clock ran under 2:00, Tannehill made a run for it, getting all the way to the half-yard line. The Texans defense kept him from crossing the goal line. Tannehill eventually scored. But the refs again took the touchdown away, alleging illegal formation by the Titans. But with just 1:42 left, Tannehill tried again. This time, it worked: running diagonally towards the sideline, Tannehill finally scored. That gave the Titans a tenuous 38-35 lead.

The Texans were flagged on the extra-point try (for illegal formation) and then again on their punt return (for holding). The latter penalty cost the Texans 10 yards. Then — in an eerie example of history repeating itself — Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler got another joint catch. In a play similar to that of the Titans-Colts game, Butler caught the ball at the same time as Cooks. The refs upheld the original call of a completed catch by Cooks. That gave the Texans a chance.

After a heart-stopping last-chance drive, the Texans were forced to kick a field goal. Ka’imi Fairbairn nailed a 51-yard field goal to tie the game!

With the game tied at 38, the Titans had 18 seconds to put together a drive. Just when he needed to, Tannehill reared back and hurled a 54-yard pass, which was caught by A.J. Brown. That incredible catch put the Titans in field-goal range; Henry ran a few more yards to put the Titans closer. With four seconds left, the Titans attempted a field goal. Their kicker Stephen Gostkowski was out; a rookie was taking his place.

Somehow, the rookie made good. Samuel Sloman’s 37-yard field goal was a showstopper: the ball veered to the right, bounced off the upright and somehow went through. The result shocked everyone, but Henry’s reaction was one for the books:

The Titans win, 41-38. With this win (their 11th), they have won the AFC South for the first time since 2008. Not only have they made the playoffs, they have won their division. As usual, their strong running game was a key to their success. (The Titans are now the only franchise to have TWO running backs both achieve over 2,000 yards in a season.) And as usual, the motor for their high-powered offense was Derrick Henry.

Henry has won the rushing title for the second straight year. Henry’s 2,027 yards are the fifth-most ever in one season, per NBC Sports. He is only the eighth player in NFL history to have 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. And according to Yahoo! Sports writer Frank Schwab, he’s the first to achieve that since Adrian Peterson in 2012. Henry, according to Fifth Quarter Stats, has now rushed for 200+ yards and multiple touchdowns for the 3rd time this season. He is the 1st player in NFL history to accomplish this feat.

But it was the climactic, heart-stopping field goal by Titans kicker Samuel Sloman that sealed the game. Players on both teams reacted with shock and awe. But for the Titans, that surprise quickly gave way to jubilation — and celebration.

Image
Titans celebrate their unforgettable win today. Photo from Twitter (@Titans).

Titans Win Thriller in Overtime vs. Texans

The Tennessee Titans overcame costly turnovers and a valiant opponent to win today’s game against the Houston Texans. The Titans rallied from a seven-point deficit late in the fourth to win in overtime, 42-36.

The Tennessee Titans jumped out to an early lead. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill found tight end Anthony Firkser for a touchdown to make it 7-0. The Titans’ next drive featured a 34-yard carry from running back Derrick Henry, who has become a leading rusher in the NFL. With twelve seconds left in the quarter, Tannehill found receiver A.J. Brown for the touchdown. That gave Tennessee a 14-0 lead.

But the Texans answered with a score of their own. A 13-play drive led to the team’s first TD. On 4th and goal, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson threw a touchdown pass to tight end Darren Fells. That helped the Texans get on the scoreboard, 14-7, in the second quarter.

The Titans took over for a drive marked by some crucial third-down conversions. On 3rd and 12, Titans’ Jonnu Smith had a 13-yard pickup, breaking tackles to extend the drive. Then Firkser had another critical catch on 3rd down. Minutes later — out of nowhere — Tannehill launched a 22-yard pass to Adam Humphries for the touchdown.

The Texans’ drive was hampered by penalties — Tytus Howard got flagged first for a chop block and then for holding. But the Texans prevailed to garner some points. Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn knocked through a field goal as time expired. The Titans led the Texans 21-10 at halftime.

But the second half was a completely different story. Houston scored to narrow the lead, 21-17. Tennessee struggled offensively, with a blocked field goal, a punt, and a fumble on its subsequent possessions. The sack came courtesy of J.J. Watt, who tackled Tannehill and forced him to fumble. That made it 1st and goal for the Texans, and they wasted no time scoring. Watson hit WR Randall Cobb for a touchdown. The extra-point kick by Fairbairn was no good. But the Texans were now leading 23-21, and the momentum had completely shifted.

As the third quarter went on, Firkser made another critical catch, and McNichols had a 15-yard play just before the quarter ended. The fourth quarter began with a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski (who’d had a previous field goal blocked). All the momentum appeared to be on the Texans’ side. But their drive stalled. Watson was sacked.

Then, on the next possession, Derrick Henry dazzled viewers with a 94-yard touchdown run. The Titans decided to attempt a two-point conversion; they succeeded. The end-zone catch by receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine made it 29-23. But then the Texans struck back, with a stunning 53-yard TD courtesy of Watson and WR Will Fuller.

On their next drive, the Titans suffered a major setback when Tannehill was intercepted by Texans corner Bradley Roby. The Texans cashed in with a TD by WR Brandin Cooks. But, instead of kickiing the exta point and making it a eight-point game, Texans head coach Romeo Crennel elected to go for two. But the two-point conversion was no good. That left the score 36-29, with just 1:50 remaining.

Scrambling, the Titans hurried to score before time ran out. Tannehill went on a tear, throwing one completed pass after another. But they did some run plays, too. Henry rushed for one play; McNichols ran on another. But the clock continued to run. 1:10 became :53, and 53 seconds soon turned into 30. Then it ran down to 10. With just seconds remaining, Tannehill threw to receiver A.J. Brown, for the touchdown. That left the game tied, 36-36, with just four seconds left.

The game went into overtime. The Titans launched a down-the-field drive that ended in spectacular fashion: Henry got the ball and ran into the end zone for the touchdown. (Henry ran for 264 yards, according to the NFL. He becomes the first NFL player EVER to have 200 yards rushing in three straight seasons.) In the end, it was Henry’s late-game heroics that won the day. The Titans won in overtime, 42-36.

The Tennessee Titans (5-0) remain undefeated.

Texans Fire Bill O’Brien After 0-4 Start

By Terrance Turner

The Houston Texans have fired head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien.

“On behalf of my family and our entire organization, I want to sincerely thank Bill O’Brien and his family for their impact on our franchise,” Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair said in a statement. “Bill’s leadership moved our organization forward as he guided us to four AFC South division championships, 52 wins and multiple playoff appearances during his tenure.” (Those 52 wins, however, were accompanied by 48 losses.)

The move comes after a dispiriting 0-4 start by the Texans. After a (predictable) loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and another loss to the Baltimore Ravens the next week, the Texans lost again to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. Hopes were high for yesterday’s match against the Minnesota Vikings, but those hopes were dashed, too.

On paper, it should’ve been a winnable game: both teams were 0-3. But Minnesota scored first, with a rushing touchdown by running back Dalvin Cook. After a kick return later, the Vikings caused a fumble by the Texans and cashed in with a field goal. After another Cook TD, it was 17-6 at the half. The Texans scored a touchdown via wide receiver Will Fuller and then nabbed a field goal. But the Vikings responded with another TD courtesy of receiver Adam Thielen. Then they hit the end zone again, courtesy of running back Alex Mattison,. Texans WR Kenny Stills scored late, and the Texans tried to rally with a last-minute drive. But upon review, WR Will Fuller’s touchdown catch was overturned. The Texans lost, 31-23.

The Houston Texans are now 0-4, at the bottom of their division (the AFC South). Their playoff chances are practically nil. According to ESPN, only one team — the 1992 Chargers — made the playoffs after an 0-4 start. Frustration on the part of Texans fans and players was widespread after yesterday’s loss.

Defensive end J.J. Watt echoed the thoughts of many with his comments in a press conference yesterday. “We obviously have to do something different,” Watt said. “We are 0-4. Whatever we’re doing is not working. Something needs to change. Something needs to be different.”

What had to change is the leadership — which has come under fire before.

O’Brien’s firing comes after an 0-4 start, but it also comes after years of head-scratching decisions. In 2017, O’Brien traded 2014 No.1 pick Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks. (He’s now defensive end for the Tennessee Titans, who are undefeated.) That same year, O’Brien also traded Duane Brown — regarded as one of the best offensive tackles in the game — to the Seahawks. Star safety Tyrann Mathieu left the team in 2019 to sign a contract with the Chiefs — who are now Super Bowl champions.

But the final straw for many fans came this year. After a stunning comeback against the Buffalo Bills, the Texans were up 24-0 against the Chiefs. But after the first quarter, they suffered an epic collapse: the Chiefs outscored the 51-7 in the rest of the game to win, 51-31.

And then, O’Brien lost the support of many Texans fans — and caused an uproar among football fans — by trading away DeAndre Hopkins. Widely regarded as a top-tier NFL receiver, Hopkins had collected 31 touchdowns during his last three seasons. O’Brien traded him for RB David Johnson and some draft picks. The reaction was swift and merciless.

“My first instinct when I saw the terms of this trade was to worry whether Hopkins had lost a limb. My second instinct was to give the Texans side of this deal the same grade safety Tyrann Mathieu awarded his former team. This is a jaw-dropping, mind-bending, inexplicable trade for O’Brien, whose bizarre run as Texans general manager is going to be the subject of a 30 for 30 documentary one day,” wrote ESPN’s Bill Barnwell. Bleacher Report writer Bill Tanier lambasted O’Brien.

“Bill O’Brien is a staggeringly terrible general manager. He’s also an awful head coach, as illustrated by his many suspect decisions as the Texans blew a 24-point lead to lose 51-31 to the Chiefs in the AFC divisional round (among other examples in big games),” Tanier wrote. For the Texans, this trade is so bad that it has substrata of badness: Johnson is a damaged-goods running back who lost his starting job last year and is three full years removed from his last productive season.”

A Meditation on the Black Quarterback

By Terrance Turner

As we conclude Black History Month, I wanted to make note of a historic feat that may have gone overlooked. Four weeks ago, Patrick Mahomes became only the third black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. (Doug Williams was the first, in 1987; Russell Wilson was the second, in 2014.) Mahomes — the son of a black father and white mother — caught fire late in Super Bowl 54 to lead the Chiefs to victory. Mahomes’ stunning fourth-quarter performance helped power the Chiefs to score 21 unanswered points in the final minutes of the game.

With his surprise win, Mahomes makes history as one of only three black quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl. But he was just one of several mobile, talented black quarterbacks in professional football this year.

Lamar Jackson earned the MVP Award this year with good passing and even better rushing. In 2019, Jackson broke Michael Vick’s record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. He led the league with 36 touchdown passes and powered the Baltimore Ravens to playoff contention. Deshaun Watson likewise animated the Houston Texans’ offense with his mobility and passing, pushing them to a playoff win against the Bills. And in the XFL, the Houston Roughnecks’ P.J. Walker has scored more touchdowns than some XFL teams combined. (He eventually finished the abbreviated season with 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions.)

Could we be in the middle of a renaissance for black quarterbacks?