Titans Win Thriller in Overtime vs. Texans

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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.”

Patrick Mahomes Signs Largest Sports Contract in History

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Patrick Mahomes beams in this file photo released today. (Photo via Twitter @Chiefs)

By Terrance Turner

It should come as no surprise that the Kansas City Chiefs have signed quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a contract extension. But the details of the arrangement are nothing short of astonishing. Per numerous sources (including NFL reporter Ian Rapoport), Mahomes’ 10-year extension is worth $503 million — making it the largest contract in the history of sports.

According to Rapoport, this is the first time that an NFL player has been the highest-paid in sports. His NFL Network colleague Tom Pelissero added that Mahomes’ deal comes with a $10 million signing bonus and a “roster bonus” that grows to $49.4 million by 2027. Pelissero added that Mahomes could earn up to $103 million by next March.

The Chiefs added 10 years to what was already a two-year contract for Mahomes, ensuring that he will remain a Chief through at least 2031. Accordingly, Mahomes tweeted “Here to stay”, alongside a highlight video with captions by Mahomes. “Chiefs Kingdom, you’ve been with me since the beginning,” he wrote. “You helped us overcome adversity to become Super Bowl champs. And we’re staying together…for a long time. We’re building a dynasty.”

Mahomes, 24, has racked up 76 touchdowns and only 18 interceptions in three seasons as a Chief. After being named 2018 NFL MVP, he overcame a frightening midseason injury (a dislocated kneecap) and not only survived the 2019 season but helped power the Chiefs to a 12-4 record. Then he and the Chiefs battled other AFC standouts in the postseason. They overcame three straight double-digit deficits in the playoffs. After stunning the Texans in a come-from-behind win, they rallied to beat the Titans in the AFC Championship. (It was the first AFC Championship Game since 2010 not to include Tom Brady.)

You may recall that in February, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl in rather memorable fashion. Down 20-10 with only six minutes left, Mahomes rallied and led the team to score 21 unanswered points — including two touchdowns by running back Damien Williams. Mahomes, who is biracial, is only the third black quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl. His performance earned him the honor of being named Super Bowl MVP.

“This is a significant moment for our franchise and for the Chiefs Kingdom,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “Since he joined the Chiefs just a few years ago, Patrick has developed into one of the most prolific athletes in all of sports. With his dynamic play and infectious personality, he is one of the most recognized and beloved figures to put on the Chiefs uniform. He’s an extraordinary leader and a credit to the Kansas City community, and I’m delighted that he will be a member of the Chiefs for many years to come.”

One of Mahomes’ teammates put it more bluntly. Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu voiced approval of the deal. “The young man deserve it all,” Mathieu wrote on Twitter. “One of the best I’ve been around. One of the greats.” Mathieu previously played for the Houston Texans, whose quarterback Deshaun Watson may be in line for a payday of his own. Texans superstar defensive end J.J. Watt tagged Watson in a playful tweet today:

UPDATE: Mahomes is apparently making some money moves as the start of the season approaches. Today, news broke that Mahones is now a part owner of the Kansas City Royals. The baseball team is located in the very city for which he won the Super Bowl. That fact wasn’t lost on the quarterback. “I’m honored to become a part owner of the Kansas City Royals,” said Patrick Mahomes. “I love this city and the people of this great town. This opportunity allows me to deepen my roots in this community, which is something I’m excited to do.”

After signing the largest-ever sports contract in history, Mahomes has made history again. This deal makes Patrick Mahomes the youngest sports owner ever. NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reported the record-breaking development earlier thiis morning:

UPDATE: After the Chiefs went 2-0 in their first two games, Patrick Mahomes was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020. After praising Mahomes’ athleticism and vision, author Derek Jeter lauded Mahomes’ commitment to his teammates and coaches. “There is a lot more promise in Patrick Mahomes’ future than just on-field accolades,” Jeter wrote. “He already has started to build a legacy as one of the most impactful athletes of his generation, and I, for one, am excited to see what is next.”

Texas COVID Cases Reach New High (Again)

Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference on Tuesday.

By Terrance Turner

Today, 2,622 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Texas. It’s the highest one-day total the state has ever had. According to the Texas Department of Safety and Health Services, an additional 1,476 cases “were previously diagnosed among Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates, but that had not been reported by local health departments.” (Why?)

That makes for a total of 4,098 positive cases of COVID-19 since yesterday. Houston Chronicle reporter Jeremy Wallace wrote today that Texas is also reporting 46 deaths. That’s the most since May 20. Total deaths from coronavirus in Texas now number over 2,000.

For five consecutive days, hospitalizations for COVID-19 have reached all-time highs, with each day topping the day before. Today, Texas reported 2,518 patients are in hospitals with lab-confirmed coronavirus. That’s a leap of 192 since yesterday and up 67% (!!!) since Memorial Day. Wallace delivered the news earlier today on Twitter:

From Twitter.

As usual, Harris County and Dallas County continue to lead the state in cases. They total 17,282 and 14,537, respectively, at press time. (Data from the Texas DSHS is preliminary and is subject to change.) Thankfully, there are still roughly 15,000 available hospital beds and around 1700 ICU beds, according to The Hill. But hospitalizations in Texas for COVID-19 have risen for six straight days and broken records for five.

Texas reported 2,518 patients with positive coronavirus tests who are hospitalized today. That is a record high. This graph shows the number of current hospitalizations has been trending up in recent days.
Courtesy of the Texas Tribune.

Dallas County reported 306 new COVID-19 cases and 8 deaths today, according to the Dallas Morning News. Hospitalizations are also increasing. (Speaking of hospitalizations, there’s been a shooting at the Dallas Galleria Mall. At least one person has been shot. Dallas police spokeswoman Melinda Gutierrez told CNN that the suspect is still at large, but added: “This is not an active shooter.”)

All of this is happening as Texas continues to reopen. Restaurants were allowed to open at 75% capacity last week, and on Friday, amusement parks will be allowed to open at 50% capacity — just like nearly every other business in Texas. Phase 3 of reopening began on June 3, a month after Phase 1 commenced on May 1.

But a growing trend is emerging in data: infections are rising among people under 30. Per the Texas Tribune, more 20-to-29-year-olds make up 24% of all cases and 8.3% of the hospitalizations in Travis County and the city of Austin. At a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said that in Lubbock County and Cameron County, a majority of new cases are in people under 30.

He suggested that the results were related to Memorial Day celebrations or bars, that “certain counties where a majority of the people who are testing positive … are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bar-type settings.” (Does he mean the very bars that he ordered to reopen on May 22?)

“It’s hard to tell exactly where those people contracted COVID,” Abbott said. “All we know is that because these people are testing positive at a higher rate who are age 30 and under, it informs us about certain strategies to take to make sure that we are able to reduce the number of people testing positive.”

One strategy that he won’t be using is ordering face masks. The mayors of Austin, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, along with five other cities, sent Abbott a letter yesterday. They’re asking him to let these mayors require the use of face masks in their respective cities. But the governor rebuffed their requests. (His executive order bars Texas cities from issuing fines or jail time to those who violate the mask requirement.)

Texans Trade DeAndre Hopkins to Cardinals; Fallout Continues

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By Terrance Turner

The Houston Texans have traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals.

The team made the trade in exchange for Cardinals running back David Johnson, a second-round pick, and a fourth-round draft pick. Cardinals will receive a fourth-round pick as part of the trade, according to ESPN.

The move caught many on the Texans by surprise. According to Sports Illustrated, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson found out about the trade while working out with his personal coach Quincy Avery. Together, Watson and Hopkins had amassed 25 passing touchdowns in 38 games. (They averaged 87 yards a game, according to SI.) Hopkins had over 1100 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons; he collected 31 touchdowns during that period.

There was no reason given for this bizarre move, which stunned the sports world. As ESPN writer Bill Barnwell wrote: “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.”

Bleacher Report writer Bill Tanier was even more blunt. “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. He’s the kind of player who is normally traded to save cap space for a late-round pick, not for a perennial Pro Bowler in his prime with 315 catches and 31 touchdowns in the last three seasons.”

Around the league, reactions were similarly negative. Former Texans player Tyrann Mathieu shook his head:

Texans safety Justin Reid was unimpressed:

The questions surrounding the trade focused on the relationship between Hopkins and Texans head coach/general manger Bill O’Brien, with reports that tensions between the two led to the trade. That narrative went into overdrive this morning, when Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin appeared on ESPN’s “Get Up”. Irvin described a conversation he’d had with Hopkins about the trade. Hopkins reportedly told him that “it was a bit of a power struggle there because Coach O’Brien thought he had too much influence over the locker room,” Irvin said.

The relationship began to deteriorate, Irvin said, after O’Brien called Hopkins into a meeting to hash things out. Irvin claimed that O’Brien had compared Hopkins to former tight end Aaron Hernandez, whom O’Brien worked with while with the New England Patriots. Hernandez famously lost his job after being arrested for murder, of which he was eventually convicted. He committed suicide in prison.

“In that meeting, he started the meeting with telling DeAndre Hopkins this — which blew my mind when DeAndre told me this,” Irvin said. “[O’Brien] told DeAndre Hopkins, he said, ‘Hey, the last time I had to have a meeting like this it was with Aaron Hernandez,’” Irvin said. “I was like, ‘What? He put in Aaron Hernandez in this meeting?’ He said, ‘Yes, he did.’ He said, ‘Michael, that blew my mind that he would even bring that up. I’ve never been in any trouble. I don’t know why he would equate me with Aaron Hernandez.’ And, from there, the meeting just deteriorated.”

Hopkins downplayed the rift on Twitter, writing: “This is being blown way out of proportion. As I’ve said before, I enjoyed and am proud of my time with the Texans. I have the utmost respect for Coach O’Brien and that will not change. Now, I’m ready to play for the Cardinals.”