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Texans-Titans Preview: Five Things To Watch

Here’s five things to watch for when the Texans play the Titans.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

All the windows and doors are open. I’m staring out upon a yellow leafed tree, and watching the dogs scamper around some strange car corroded and dirt pile filled expanse behind my fence. There’s a lady bug on my window and air in my chest. This sweet little breeze is curling all around me, and the clouds are perfect in that golden light filled blue sky, that we are all so lucky to have. My blood is mass produced every corner cold brewed sludge, and my eyes are more green than brown.

I’m so open right now. My brains are seeping out my years, my skull, like time, is a human constraint that doesn’t exist, a physical boundary that means nothing to me right now. Being alive can be such a beautiful thing sometimes when the light is just right.

And tomorrow should be golden too. No matter what’s going on, how terrible these teams are, or how opposite their paths maybe, Houston v. Tennessee is always a fun time. Call up your country cousins who get a little too close with you because as bad as this Texans team is right now, tomorrow is going to be a raucous bone splitting close game.


1.) Toss It Deep

The Texans’ defense survived last week because Joe Flacco is an awful quarterback. I mean look at this.

He was one of the rare players who was unable to throw the ball downfield against Houston, a real albino squirrel. Other teams have destroyed the Texans deep. Houston’s pass defense DVOA against deep throws is 48.7%, which is 26th. That stupid cover four has been a bunch of drunk bumbling, instead of clear and exact receiver passing.

The Titans have thrown it downfield a little bit. It’s the key for exotic methmouth to work. Tennessee has to keep the safety out of the box, and create running lanes for Demarco Murray, Derrick Henry, and whoever the hell else maybe running the ball. They have attempted 73 down field passes. Marcus Mariota is 32/68 which comes out to 47.1%, for 804 yards, and has thrown 4 touchdowns to 7 interceptions.

Of those three sectors, deep left, deep middle, and deep right, Mariota is much better going to the middle. He is 10/22, has thrown the fourth most passes in the league in this direction, for 331 yards (15.0 Y/A), has a quarterback rating of 82.8, and has 2 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. On the other sidelines he is a combined 21/50 for 505 yards and has thrown 5 interceptions to 2 touchdowns. It’s ok, but he’s nowhere near as effective as he is when he’s going to the deep middle part of the field.

Really, this is going to be the key of this game. If Tennessee can pour it up deep to Delanie Walker, or Rishard Matthews, they will be able to walk away with an easy Sunday morning win. If not, this game is going to be a rockfight at the old abandon railroad.

2.) Crush The Run

The Titans are still a run dominant team. They have a DVOA of 8.6%, which is third. It hasn’t been all perfect though. They have struggled a bit at running the boring staples of the offense, the inside zone, and power plays. The spectacular has worked. Derrick Henry is great. But the major core of the offense has been out of whack in recent weeks.

Part of it is that the year has gone on and Murray is an older back. Just by the nature of what’s written inside our cells, he’s going to wear down as the season progresses. He’s their predominant inside back. The offensive line has struggled moving the first level. He doesn’t have the speed to create something out of nothing. It’s not that he’s a bad outside runner. He’s great in space and has a killer stiff arm that I love so much. It’s that he can’t bounce things outside and get away from the defense’s alligator mouth.

Derrick Henry on the other hand, can do it. He can make some spectacular runs. He’s one of those cars on the access road driving free and forever while everyone sits in the middle of a traffic jam that gets back on the highway at the exact moment traffic clears up again. He can mash inside, and he break things wide like this.

Tennessee is 24th in adjusted line yards with 3.92. Over the right side of the line they rank in the high 20’s, and over left tackle they are 11th, and second on left edge runs. They rank so highly in left edge runs because of these Henry breakouts.

Additionally, this is going to be the last season Murray will be the running back number one. This year Murray has 129 carries, Henry has 114. Henry is averaging 4.6 yards a carry compared to Murray’s 3.5, and has a DVOA of 17.9%, a staggering difference to Murray’s -6.0%. The all Heisman backfield is going to be the norm for the rest of this season probably, and for next year too.

The problem for Tennessee is they are going up against a really good Houston run defense. I’m tired of writing the same sentence over and over again so I won’t write it. The Texans have a run defense DVOA of -17.9% (9th). Their adjusted line yards is 3.53 (6th), and they have a stuff rate of 26% (4th).

For the Titans to make things happen on offense they are going to need to put two blockers on Clowney and rip the septum piercing out of his nose, and hope Henry can be remarkable. If these things don’t happen, the Titans offense will sputter around. Especially if they go their strange quick passing offense that doesn’t work at all. I don’t think Tennessee will have a good game on the ground. Their offense will probably be dependent on deep throws. I’m expecting this game to be a close one.

3.) Exotic Methmouth

The Titans’ offense is still fun, no matter what the nerd ‘watch the film’ losers say. They’ll hand the ball off to Adoree Jackson, he’s a cornerback! They have a goal line play with Murray and Henry in the I-Formation, and they’ll give a quick hand off to Murray as the full back to catch the defense with a spoon in their roommate’s peanut butter jar. They’ll put the wide receiver in motion and run the option with Mariota and whoever that man is at the time. My favorite of them all is this play. Dammit do I love this football play. This is my favorite play of all time.

Tennessee is in the shotgun with Delanie Walker lined up wide left outside the numbers. The Colts are in a nickle defense. Mariota motions Walker to the slot before the play. The offensive line blocks like it’s a zone read play to the right. Nothing special there.

Mariota has three reads on this play. This play is the dream from the end of Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. Mariota first reads the unblocked defensive end. If he sits, Mariota hands the ball off to the back. If he crashes, Mariota fakes the hand off and runs left. The Colts think it’s a simple zone read too. They teach their defensive end to crash. They have three defenders against two blockers playside. One of them is going to go unblocked. One will make the tackle.

Here’s read number two. Mariota checks the box to see if there is a defender in the center of the field. With the left tackle blocking down to the backside linebacker, this extra defender will go unblocked. If he bites on the fake too hard Mariota has the option to cut this play upfield and streak through the center.

Although the defender bites inside, Mariota takes the play wide. Now he makes his third read. There’s an alley defender. Mariota keeps the ball until the defender crashes on him. From there he will toss it backwards, overhand to Walker.


Eric Decker has to block the cornerback. One of the things that makes methmouth work all right, is the Titans are really good downfield blockers. Their wide receivers love to be muck it up and body defenders. This leads to a wide of variety of plays like this, and allows Tennessee to break open runs, and turn their run game into their pass game in a way.

Decker makes a buttery stack of flap jacks and Walker has a free run.

You can hate methmouth because it doesn’t fully utilize Mariota. Whatever. Shut up. Plays like this are cool as hell and make Tennessee a fun team to watch. I can’t wait to see more pitches and crock pot cookups from Mike Mularkey in this matchup.

4.) Hopkins Loves That Nashville Coverage

I love screaming STACY with all the windows open.

DeAndre Hopkins loves playing the Tennessee Titans. We live entirely different lives. Against the Titans, Hopkins has 58 catches on 89 targets for 930 yards. He averages 16.03 yards a reception, and 103.3 yards a game. All of this is in addition to the six touchdown catches he has. He broke out as a rookie against Tennessee by taking over in the second half and overtime, and the rest of the NFL has still yet to visit the dermatologist.

This week he should have an another enormous game. The Titans have a pass defense DVOA of 22.4%, 24th. All of their cornerbacks have struggled this year. According to Football Outsiders’ Premium Charting Data, Leshaun Sims, Adoree Jackson, Brice McCain, and Logan Ryan are the four hoursemen of the incompetence, and each have a success rate less than 55%, and are being attacked more than ten yards down the field on average.

Logan Ryan has been the best of the bunch. Jackson is going to be a player once he breaks through the baby defensive back wall. But no matter whoever is covering Hopkins is they are going to be at an enormous disadvantage.

Tennessee has a good defensive front. This is Houston’s best matchup to move the ball against the Titans, and is their best matchup every week.


Tom Savage has been strip sacked six times this season. It’s so beautiful. It’s unbelievable. I want nothing else to happen in the world. I would pay one bitcoin to see this happen again. And, you know what, it probably will.

The Texans recently lost Chris Clark for the season. His replacement will either be the worst left tackle to ever play Kendall Lamm, or the puppy with little needle teeth, Julie’n Davenport. Either one is going to get dismantled, and their right tackle, Breno Giacomini, is going to as well. Derrick Morgan has had an awesome season, and has one of the best spin moves in football.

On his opposite side is Brian Orakpo.

Morgan has 23 pressures and 7 sacks, and Orakpo has 24 pressures and 4 sacks.

The Titans also have Jurrell Casey, a premier interior rusher.

He has 22.5 pressures and 3 sacks of his own. He’s going to be in combat against leaky pass blockers Jeff Allen, and Xavier Su’a-Filo.

The Titans’ defense is going to be like a game of Road Rash 3D, riding motorcycles with chains swirling over their heads and 2x4s in outstretched arms, crushing Savage with these objects whenever they drive bye.

So let’s play a game. How do you think Savage is going to get strip sacked this week? Is it Mr. Plum in the library with a candlestick? No. My guess is Derrick Morgan with a spin move against Lamm, he’ll smash Savage in his back without him ever seeing Morgan and the ball will catapult out of his hand, Casey will recover it, and Xavier Su’a-Filo will make the tackle.

If you can’t wait! until tomorrow’s game, then watch these seven plays until tomorrow comes crashing into your little life.

Not, 1.

Not, 2.

Not, 3.

Not, 4.

Not, 5.

But, 6.

Let’s make it 7.