NASHVILLE — With the Tennessee Titans threatening to overtake them for the AFC South division, the Houston Texans came into Nissan Stadium on Sunday and escaped with a 24-21 victory to improve to 9-5 on the season and seize control of the division.
Here are three things we learned.
1. Not quite enough: The Titans had their chances but couldn’t quite manage to execute well enough in the scoring department (despite outgaining the Texans 432-374) or defensively (particularly late in the game) to overtake the Texans. An early-game blocked field goal loomed large as well. There’s definitely a lot to like about them: the relentless approach of that Derrick Henry led rushing attack, the spark that Ryan Tannehill has given their passing game, the physical defense that takes on the hard-nosed personality of their head coach. However, the Titans weren’t quite as potent as they needed to be. And even though the defense denied the Texans at the goal line twice, Tennessee managed only seven points off two their two interceptions on those series, and that proved costly.
2. Responding to pressure: The Texans entered Sunday’s game with a load of pressure resting on their shoulders because of the way they have squandered opportunities to pull away from the pack in the AFC South at various points this season. Their performance wasn’t by any means perfect. Two goal-line interceptions (one off a tipped pass) prevented them from controlling this game. However, they displayed a real grittiness by the way that they overcame turnovers, endured offensive lulls and defensive lapses and pulled out this victory.
Houston’s defense had its typical inconsistencies. But a goal-line interception by Whitney Mercilus returned into the Tennessee red zone did ignite the team as a whole, and they did just enough while providing key stands at various points in the game. Late in the game, Deshaun Watson delivered dazzling heroics to extend plays and drives, and the Texans prevailed. They’ll see the Titans again in Week 17, so the division race isn’t over. But getting this road win was huge for Houston.
3. Do they have enough?: If the Texans do manage to lock up this division, questions still remain. It’s hard to know what to make of them because of the lack of consistency. They’re clearly not as good as the team that thumped the Patriots two weeks ago. But they’re clearly better than the squad that got thumped by the Broncos last week. They had some fluky things happen to them to hamper their efforts against the Titans, but they also continue to have defensive lapses that prevents them from being on that elite level of AFC teams. So, the question remains, even if they do get into the postseason, how great are their chances against potent teams like the Ravens or Chiefs?
Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.