Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matt Patterson/AP/Shutterstock (13581891ft) Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks (13) catches a pass during an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, in Houston Titans Texans Football, Houston, United States – 30 Oct 2022
The game was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated.
This was without a doubt the hardest game of the season for any Texans fan to watch. This may have been the worst performance from the Texans’ offense I have ever seen in my 10 seasons covering the team. The fact that it came just a week after their best offensive effort of the season made it hurt even more.
Coming off his best game of the year and first 300+ yard effort of the season, Davis Mills laid a Godzilla-sized egg. At the half, he was 5/11 for 17 yards. You read that correctly, at the half. He also threw an early interception. If you were of the mind that even in pee wee football, five completions gets better than 17 yards, you were not the only one. Mills had only 64 yards until the Texans’ final drive of the game, a late 90-yard touchdown drive with 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter with the game already decided. Pure garbage time stats.
The offensive line struggled badly all game, and Dameon Pierce was frequently hit behind the line of scrimmage. Sometimes Pierce was hit almost as soon as he received the handoff. The Titans swarmed the backfield all day, and Pierce was held to just 35 yards on 15 carries. He had a 23-yard run called back because of a holding penalty as well.
The Texans’ defense was helpless against the Titans’ rush attack. Derrick Henry had 15 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The second half was even worse.
Tennessee only threw one pass the entire second half and it did not matter. Even though Houston knew Tennessee was going to run on every play with rookie Malik Willis looking unprepared to start an NFL game at QB, they still could not stop them. Henry finished with 219 yards and two scores on 32 carries. Backup Dontrell Hilliard had eight carries for 83 yards, and actually had more rushing yards than the Texans had total yards until Houston’s final drive of the game. Yes, the backup.
It was a complete disaster for a team that was in desperate need of building off its last game offensively.
The Texans defense did its best to keep things close early. Despite getting gashed for a 41-yard run by Henry on the second play of the game, the defense tightened up in their own territory, and stalled the Titans out at the Houston 30. Former Texans and current Titans kicker Randy Bullock came on for a 48-yard FG attempt but missed wide right.
The Texans took over with good field position at their own 38 and moved the ball in small increments into Titans territory. However, a bad pass by Mills intended for TE Brevin Jordan was off the mark and intercepted by Kristian Fulton at the Tennessee 31.
After trading three-and-outs, the Texans would get a break. Houston’s Tremon Smith would strip Robert Woods on a punt return, Dare Ogunbowale recovered the ball, and the Texans were in business at the Tennessee 42.
They would waste that prime opportunity.
Not only did the Texans go three-and-out, they would actually lose 13 yards on the drive.
The Titans would take over at their own seven-yard line. On a first-and-ten from their own 30, Malik Willis would throw a pass looking for WR Cody Hollister that would be picked off by Steven Nelson at the Tennessee 44 and returned 33 yards to the 11. The Texans were in business again, with a chance to redeem themselves after blowing the last opportunity.
The Texans were lucky to get a field goal. They actually lost 13 yards on the drive and needed a 43-yard field goal from Ka’imi Fairbairn to get on the board. They had a 3-0 lead with 10:40 to go in the second quarter.
The Texans’ defense held again, forcing the Titans to punt after just five plays and 23 yards of offense, but the Texans went three-and-out without gaining a yard.
Punting from their own 10, an unusually short punt from Cam Johnston was fielded by Woods at the Tennessee 47 and returned 16 yards to the Houston 37. The Titans had their best starting field position of the game with 5:13 to go before the half.
It took them 53 seconds to score.
Derrick Henry steamrolled his way to a 29-yard touchdown run, and he accounted for all the Titans’ yards on the drive. The extra point made it 7-3 Titans with 4:20 to go before half.
Houston went four plays and punted. The Titans’ drive stalled when Roy Lopez came up with a big sack of Malik Willis on a third-and-two from the Houston 36 to force a punt with 20 seconds remaining before the half. The Texans took a knee upon possession and went into the break down just 7-3 despite being outgained 183 to 35.
Houston opened the second half with the ball and more of the same offensive ineptitude. Four plays, 12 yards and a punt.
The Titans’ next drive was nine plays and 65 yards of rushing pain, before Derrick Henry punched in his second touchdown of the day; this one from a yard out to make it 14-3. Every play on the drive was a run.
With 6:31 on the clock in the third quarter and only trailing 14-3, the game felt out of reach.
Another four-play, 22-yard drive would result in the Texans punting, and the Titans would then extend the lead.
Taking over at their own nine-yard line, Tennessee would embark on a 12-play, 81-yard drive that would cap off with a 29-yard Randy Bullock field goal to push the lead to 17-3 with 11:08 remaining in the game.
The Titans ran the ball 10 straight times before throwing their only pass of the half, which fell incomplete on third-and-seven from the Houston 10. This was literally bullying by the Titans’ offensive line and running backs.
The next two drives by each team were three-and-outs, with the Texans earning negative eight yards total. Yes, negative eight.
With 4:03 remaining in the fourth, the Texans took over at their own 10-yard line. A 12-play, 90-yard drive that took 3:46 would be their only sustained drive of the game.
The Texans managed to convert a fourth-and-one at their own 19 with a three-yard run by Pierce. Mills found a previously invisible Brandin Cooks for 26 yards down the right side to the Tennessee 48. On third-and-nine from the Tennessee 47, Mills connected with Cooks again for 44 yards, also down the right side, setting up first-and-goal at the Tennessee three-yard line. Mills would hit Pierce for the three-yard touchdown with 17 seconds remaining to close the gap to 17-10. 90 of Houston’s 161 total yards came on this garbage time drive.
The onside kick attempt was recovered by Robert Woods of the Titans and the Texans embarrassing performance was finally and mercifully ended.
Houston now will have very little time to lament on their poor performance, as Thursday they will welcome in the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL, the 7-0 Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles dispatched the Steelers 35-13 earlier Sunday.
With the loss, the Texans fell to 1-5-1. Only the 1-6 Lions have a worse record. The AFC South leading Titans improved to 5-2.