John McClain: Texans offer up no defense for the Titans

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Trask Smith/CSM/Shutterstock (13582078am) Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) carries the ball during a game between the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans in Houston, TX NFL Titans vs Texans, USA – 30 Oct 2022

John McClain: Texans offer up no defense for the Titans

Just relax, Texans fans.

Your favorite team is still close to earning the first overall pick in the draft. The Texans still trail Detroit by one-half game, but unless coach Lovie Smith’s team does an amazing transformation, the helpless and hopeless performance we witnessed at NRG Stadium is quite convincing: It’s only a matter of time before the Texans are officially the worst team in the NFL.

In one of the most dreadful games in Houston professional football history, the Texans humiliated themselves, the organization and the city with a putrid performance on both sides of the ball against the Tennessee Titans.

At a time when the Astros are inspiring fans during the World Series, the Texans are an embarrassment. On Sunday afternoon, they were a portrait of incompetence against an AFC South rival that outcoached and outplayed them in alarming fashion.

The 17-10 whipping the Titans administered to Smith, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, the position coaches and players was much more decisive than the score indicated because the Texans scored their only touchdown with 17 seconds left in the game.

Quarterback Davis Mills played his worst game of the year and his worst since returning to the lineup with five games remaining in his rookie season. He’s fortunate he didn’t get benched for backup Kyle Allen.

With Hamilton running the offense and calling the plays, the Texans scored 10 points — the same number of runs the Astros scored in their first two games against the Phillies.

Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel and his defensive staff had an excellent game plan that started with shutting down Dameon Pierce and harassing Mills. Pierce averaged 2.3 yards on 15 carries. As for Mills, well, it’s hard to describe how bad he and the offensive line were.

Almost every time Mills wanted to throw, his linemen were plowed under by relentless marauders ignited by tackle Jeffery Simmons. The blockers were helpless trying to contain Simmons and his teammates up front. He had a sack and two tackles for loss, smothered the run and created chaos almost every time the ball was snapped.

Good thing for the Texans that Simmons almost didn’t play because of an ankle injury. Imagine how he would have demolished Mills, Pierce and the linemen if he’d been healthy.

“When you get dominated up front on both sides of the football, it’s hard to get any game plan going,” Smith said. “Offensively, if they’re in our backfield every time, you can’t run (and) you can’t pass the football. We were dominated up front (and you) can’t run our pass (game) in those situations.”

Mills was coming off his best game of the season in last week’s loss at Las Vegas, but he regressed substantially.

“I feel like last week (we) just stayed efficient,” Mills said about his 300-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Raiders. “We were able to be dynamic and efficient on offense, running and passing. This week (we) got in bad situations that are tough to get out of.

“I felt like that was kind of the story of the game. You can’t do much – flush it and move on to (Thursday night).”

Flush it is an apt description.

If the Texans were this bad against the Titans, the undefeated Eagles should trample them in Houston’s only prime-time game of the season. A lot of Texans need to do some serious soul searching before they get embarrassed in a game streamed by Amazon.

“It’s tough duty when you get dominated up front,” Smith said. “I know we want to pick Davis out, but it’s everything. We didn’t run the football the way we’ve been running it. So that was a part of it, too.

“We — our football team, under my leadership — did not play well in all areas. I know we’re better than that.”

Until the last drive of the game, Mills was 11-of-21 for 64 yards and an interception. At one point, his rating was 14.6. Compare that to Rex Burkhead’s 39.6 after throwing an incomplete option pass.

Because of the 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the last series when Mills was 6-of-8 for 88 yards, including completions of 26 and 44 to Brandin Cooks, he was able to finish with 17-of-29 for 152 yards and a touchdown. His rating was 69.9.

On the other side of the ball, what made this demolition even more difficult to stomach was everyone in the stadium, including the Texans’ coaches and players, knew exactly what  Vrabel was going to do. Because quarterback Ryan Tannehill was out with an illness and injury, they gave rookie third-round pick Malik Willis his first start.

Vrabel, who loves to play throwback football, had a 1960s game plan. They ran and ran and ran some more, compiling 314 yards rushing, including 219 by Derrick Henry, who averaged 6.8 a carry and scored two touchdowns.

Henry, who didn’t play against the Texans last season because of an ankle injury, compiled his fourth consecutive 200-yard performance against them.

As bad as the run defense was again, the Texans could have won what was a close game if Mills and the offense had been just competent. But they were inconceivably bad, looking discombobulated and flummoxed.

Until the last drive, Mills’ receivers couldn’t get open. There was no separation. Mills was under an unrelenting rush and off target too often.

The only good thing about Sunday’s defeat – besides keeping them close to the first pick – is they don’t have much time to relive it. They better focus on Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts coming to Houston to do serious damage to his hometown team.

(John McClain writes four columns a week for He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on

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