Texans stun Titans, shake up AFC South race

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Texans, with their league-worst report, performed Saturday’s recreation targeted on themselves. 

However within the course of, that they had a big effect on their division rivals, disrupting the AFC South race. 

Houston surprised divisional-foe Tennessee 19-14 on Christmas Eve at Nissan Stadium for its second victory of the season. The win despatched the reeling Titans (7-8) on a five-game dropping streak and out of first place within the AFC South. The ascending Jacksonville Jaguars, on a three-game profitable streak, now lead the division.

Most significantly for the Texans? The victory snapped their nine-game skid. Their solely earlier win got here Oct. 9 at Jacksonville. 

“It shows the type of guys we got in this locker room,” receiver Brandin Cooks stated. “To continue to fight, no matter what’s going on.”

The Texans’ game-winning drive got here late within the fourth quarter. With Houston trailing 14-13, quarterback Davis Mills accomplished three consecutive passes, together with back-to-back deep balls — a 20-yarder to receiver Phillip Dorsett and a 37-yarder to Amari Rodgers — to get the Texans in goal-to-go vary. Two performs later, Mills related with Cooks for the go-ahead landing.

Houston missed the following two-point attempt, its six-point benefit leaving the door open for Tennessee to regain the lead. However rookies Christian Harris and Jalen Pitre picked off quarterback Malik Willis — beginning instead of the injured Ryan Tannehill — on the Titans’ last two drives. Pitre’s interception got here on Willis’ desperation heave to Treylon Burks in the long run zone with 5 seconds left. 

Pitre and Harris grew to become the third rookie duo in franchise historical past to report interceptions in the identical recreation. And so they weren’t the one Texans rookies to get a takeaway, both. 

After conceding a 10-7 halftime lead, Houston obtained again into the sport when linebacker Jake Hansen, who went undrafted out of Illinois, stripped star operating again Derrick Henry in plus territory. The ball was recovered by defensive lineman Jonathan Greenard, resulting in a 10-play drive and a 54-yard area objective that reduce the Texans’ deficit to 14-13. 

“For whatever reason, we haven’t made plays and breaks haven’t come our way,” coach Lovie Smith stated. “But if you keep fighting, you keep playing, keep showing up, things normally change.” 

The Texans have been eradicated from playoff rivalry because the conclusion of Week 13, however they’ve continued to play with effort. They entered Saturday’s recreation with momentum regardless of an extended dropping streak. How so? Properly, they held fourth-quarter leads towards the Cowboys and Chiefs the previous two weeks, dropping to Dallas by 4 and falling to Kansas Metropolis in extra time. 

In Nashville, they discovered a solution to end. 

“It shows us that if we keep pushing, we’re going to see the light,” stated Pitre, who had a team-high 9 tackles to go along with his interception. “This week, we did what we needed to do.”

In response to Smith, the Texans checked out this contest as the beginning of a brand new three-game season — at Tennessee, versus Jacksonville, at Indianapolis. Three division opponents. Even with its playoff probabilities lengthy gone, Houston might nonetheless end with the highest in-division report amongst AFC South groups. 

By beating the Titans (3-2 division report), the Texans (2-1-1) pulled into the highest spot. 

“We’re playing in our division. That should get you pumped up,” Smith stated. “You shouldn’t need any more incentive than that.”

Draft implications

Massive image, that is actually what issues for the Texans. How did their win influence their probabilities of the No. 1 general decide? With the league’s worst report, Houston at present has the within observe on the highest choice within the 2023 draft. That’s been the case for a lot of the season. 

Houston (2-12-1) is now only a half-game forward of Chicago (3-12), which holds the second-worst mark and fell to Buffalo on Saturday. 

The Texans’ different first-round decide, acquired final offseason from the Browns within the Deshaun Watson commerce, is at present pegged to be tenth general, in keeping with Tankathon. Cleveland was eradicated from playoff rivalry Saturday with its loss to New Orleans.

High tales from FOX Sports activities:

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand labored for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Community, the place he was the Titans beat author for a yr and a half. He lined the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for 3 seasons (2018-20) previous to shifting to Tennessee. You possibly can comply with Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur

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