Deshaun Watson, Texans Snap Titans 4-Game Win Streak, Capture 1st Place in South

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 15, 2019

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson calls a play against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

The Houston Texans took sole possession of first place in the AFC South on Sunday with a 24-21 win over the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Houston overcame a three-touchdown performance by Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, as Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson threw a pair of touchdowns and running back Carlos Hyde rushed for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

With the victory, Houston improved to 9-5 on the season, and it controls its own destiny for a division title and playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Titans fell to 8-6 and are currently outside the playoffs in the AFC.

The loss ended a four-game winning streak for Tennessee, while the Texans gained some much-needed momentum on the heels of last week's disappointing home loss to the Denver Broncos.


Notable Fantasy Stats

Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU: 19-of-27 for 243 YDS, 2 TD, 2 INT; 7 CAR for 32 YDS

Carlos Hyde, RB, HOU: 26 CAR for 104 YDS, 1 TD

Kenny Stills, WR, HOU: 3 REC for 35 YDS, 2 TD

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU: 6 REC for 119 YDS

Will Fuller V, WR, HOU: 5 REC for 61 YDS

Ryan Tannehill, QB, TEN: 22-of-36 for 279 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT; 3 CAR for 10 YDS, 1 TD

Derrick Henry, RB, TEN: 21 CAR for 86 YDS

A.J. Brown, WR, TEN: 8 REC for 114 YDS, 1 TD

Jonnu Smith, TE, TEN: 5 REC for 60 YDS; 1 CAR for 57 YDS


Texans Overcome Interceptions, Blown Lead to Beat Titans in Tennessee

Houston made some mistakes Sunday and squandered a 14-point halftime lead, but it still managed to come through with a key road win over the team it was tied with for the AFC South lead.

The Texans overcame a red-zone interception by quarterback Deshaun Watson on the first drive of the game and eventually took the lead in the second quarter off a huge defensive play by Whitney Mercilus. With the Titans going in for a score, the ball was jostled free from Anthony Firkser and returned 86 yards by Mercilus:


This interception is WILD. https://t.co/lnhwsMT7tf

Although he didn't score, Watson still managed to make the Titans pay with a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kenny Stills:


.@deshaunwatson over the top into the end zone to @KSTiLLS! #WeAreTexans #HOUvsTEN 📺: CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/ALWDCpltog https://t.co/hLn0TZ2Mt3

On Houston's next drive, Watson connected with Stills again from 16 yards out to extend the lead to 14-0, which is the advantage the Texans held at halftime:


Kenny Stills is unstoppable today. https://t.co/vmp2Ibhaib

Per ESPN Stats & Info, that marked Watson's 70th career touchdown pass and put him in some elite company:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Deshaun Watson joins Dan Marino, Kurt Warner and Patrick Mahomes as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 70 touchdowns within their first 36 career games. https://t.co/Lh2YeV5hlu

With the Titans failing to score in the first half, some may have wondered if Tannehill was reverting back to his old form, but NFL.com's Chris Wesseling suggested Tennessee's struggles weren't the fault of Tannehill:

Chris Wesseling @ChrisWesseling

The pick was more accurately a Firkser fumble at the goal line. Tannehill has led drives of 67 (FG blocked), 76 (Firkser flub) and 45 (Vrabel scared to try a FG). Tannehill doing much better than score would indicate https://t.co/WKCPnYIsaR

The first drive of the second half was hugely important for Tennessee in terms of seizing back some momentum, and it did so by marching 76 yards on 15 plays and taking 9:26 off the clock.

The Titans went for it on 4th-and-goal, and they converted when Tannehill executed a play-action bootleg and ran it in for the touchdown:


Phenomenal play call by the @Titans on 4th and Goal https://t.co/z3O3qmFv8f

Houston seemed poised to answer on the next drive, as it took the ball all the way down to the Tennessee 4-yard line, but Watson's pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Jayon Brown in the end zone, marking Watson's second pick of the game:


Ball is batted in the air and @JayonBrown12 comes down with it in the end zone! #Titans #HOUvsTEN 📺: CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/ALWDCpltog https://t.co/2Npr2QgO1s

With momentum on their side, the Titans got deep into Houston territory quickly on a creative pitch play to tight end Jonnu Smith, who ran it 57 yards:


Jonnu Smith is a tight end. And he’s as fast as any RB out there. @Easymoney_81 #Titans #HOUvsTEN 📺: CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/ALWDCpltog https://t.co/3uFZFmhY4Q

A five-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown coupled with an extra point tied the game at 14-14 early in the fourth quarter:


A.J. Brown’s been balling. @ryantannehill1 ➡️ @Brown1arthur and the @Titans even the score 14-14! #Titans #HOUvsTEN 📺: CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/ALWDCpltog https://t.co/04HiEdkCgR

Watson made up for his interception on the previous drive with a 35-yard completion to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to put Houston in position for the go-ahead score.

Running back Carlos Hyde cashed in from 10 yards out with 10:34 remaining to put the Texans on top for good.


Carlos Hyde cuts it outside! #WeAreTexans @elguapo has his 1st career 1,000-yard season on this 10-yard touchdown 🙌 #HOUvsTEN 📺: CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/ALWDCpltog https://t.co/5Oue3BmJc0

Houston added a field goal with 3:31 left, and although Tannehill threw an 11-yard touchdown to running back Dion Lewis with 2:04 remaining, it was too little too late with the Texans recovering the ensuing onside kick.


What's Next?

Houston has a potentially tough game next Saturday on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed by its Week 17 home rematch with Tennessee.

The Titans will face one of their toughest challenges of the season next Sunday when they host the New Orleans Saints before a road clash with the Texans in Week 17.