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Incompletions: Texans v. Titans (Sadness and Madness)

With so much to write and talk about after every game, one person isn’t enough to write about it all. The Masthead joins together and writes about an instant classic.

NFL: Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

MATT WESTON:

The game was over. The Titans were going to win. The only question left was by how much.

Houston had been strangled in the first half and was left purple and floppy. After a three and out, the Titans scored three straight touchdowns, more specifically scoring three straight red zone touchdowns, to go up 21-10. In the second half, they drove into Houston territory after Houston punted thanks to a run-run-pass three and out. Bradley Roby did a very Bradley Roby thing and yanked A.J. Brown after getting beat by a double move. Anthony Firkser caught an outrageous pass from Ryan Tannehill. Yet, the difference was this time, Tyrell Adams beat Rodger Saffold to his shoulder, forced a long third down, and ended Arthur Smith’s red zone hot streak.

Facing 4th and 3, with the ball at Houston’s 9 yard line, Mike Vrabel led his men to a coward’s field goal. Justin Reid was left unblocked. He hopped over the line of scrimmage and blocked the field goal, reawakening the demons from Week 15 in 2019 and gave Houston the big red zone stop they needed.

This wasn’t just a blocked field goal. This opened up the sarcophagus, dug up an entire Indian burial ground, and carried out a black cat holocaust. It was more than a blocked field goal. It was a singular event that transformed this game into absolute outrageous madness.

It led to:

—A defensive pass interference penalty on Kristian Fulton set up a rare David Johnson touchdown (21-17 TEN).

Taylor Lewan leaving the game with a non-contact injury after trying to get out to the alley to block on a screen pass. Ty Sambrailo replaced him.

—On Sambrailo’s second snap, with the Titans facing 3rd and 10, J.J. Watt beating him with a chop-rip, forcing a fumble that Sambrailo failed to recover, giving the Texans the ball at the Titans’ four yard line.

—3rd and 3, Deshaun Watson scrambling from the pocket and hitting Randall Cobb on the pylon with him chasing back to the ball.

—Ka’imi Fairbairn missing the extra point (23-21 HOU) and the Texans taking the lead.

—Tennessee driving into Houston territory and Stephen Gostkowski missing a 37 yard field goal.

Deshaun Watson taking a sack on 3rd and 8 that lost ten yards and pushed Houston out of field goal range.

Derrick Henry transmogrifying into a rhinoceros and rampaging through the entirety of Houston’s defense for a 94 yard touchdown.

—Mike Vrabel opting to go for two. Ryan Tannehill faking the run, rolling left, and finding an open receiver in the back of the end zone (23-29 TEN).

—Two plays, 75 yards later, the Texans scoring after a 53 yard touchdown pass from Watson to Will Fuller that traveled 63 yards through the air (30-29 HOU).

Ryan Tannehill throwing a deep post pass off play action that was intercepted by Bradley Roby.

—Houston moving the ball to the Titans’ one yard line. Romeo Crennel staying strong. The Texans going for it on 4th and 1 instead of settling for the three. Watson evaded a Rashaan Evans blitz and hit Randall Cobb on a short drag to score (36-29 HOU).

—Crennel continuing down the warrior’s path instead of the coward’s path. The Texans went for two to make it a nine point/two possession game. Watson’s pass to an open Kenny Stills was batted at the line by Jeffery Simmons.

—A Ryan Tannehill game-tying drive attempt. With 1:45 remaining, one timeout, and the ball at their own 24 yard line, Tannehill pushed Tennessee to Houston’s four yard line thanks to quick passes to the flat and short middle. With seven seconds left and the ball at the seven, rather than spike the ball, Tannehill took a quick snap and threw the fade to Brown. He caught the pass over Roby. His knee may have landed out of bounds before his second foot came down in bounds. It was too close to tell. The ruling on the field stood. Tennessee kicked the extra point (36-36 TEN).

Watson calling tails. The coin landed heads. A bit of his soul left his body. Tennessee would start overtime with the ball.

—After a dump-off pass to Henry against the blitz that turned into 53 yards, thanks to Brandon Dunn being the short hook defender, the Titans found themselves in the red zone again. On 3rd and 6, Henry lined up at quarterback. The Titans blocked duo. Houston’s defensive line was driven back. Henry sold the run, set up the block, waited for Anthony Firkser to peel around the formation, and knock out Brennan Scarlett for the game winning touchdown (42-36).

For us, this game wonderful and beautiful, the perfect AFC South contest. For Mike Vrabel, this was his worst nightmare. The Titans missed kicks. They lost the turnover battle. They lost Lewan. They played the exact opposite of the way the Titans usually play and almost lost the type of insane game they usually lost to the Texans when Bill O’Brien was the head coach. Instead, Vrabel pulled it off because after hemorrhaging talent for the last two seasons, failing to invest in that side of the ball so Houston’s offense could flail trying to score 27 points a game, the Texans’ defense has officially fallen apart. The Titans, even without Lewan, saw their third string running back average more than ten yards a carry. Henry averaged more yards a carry than Watson or Tannehill did per pass attempt.

This game was the culmination of two seasons worth of O’Brien roster mismanagement. The dam is rubble. The circling vultures are now polishing the bones. Bend but don’t break has broken.

As I said and wrote about all summer, the Texans weren’t going to be a great team in 2020. It was going to be an all-out war to go even 9-7 and win the #7 seed. Houston didn’t even get that opportunity. 0-4. O’Brien fired. 1-5. Who’s going to manage the fire sale? Even, I with my charnel heart, didn’t think it would be this bad.

Bow it will up to the next leadership group to clean up the feces O’Brien smeared all over this roster with his disastrous personnel decisions. They have to rebuild an entire defense and the skill player position group, all while being up against the salary cap without a first or second round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

This is Deshaun Watson’s team. He’s all they have left.

TITAN UP:

L4BLITZER:

Well, for the first time in a long while, we got a barn-burner of a game from the Texans. A lot of ebb and flow, and a game that seemed like a blowout for the Titans turned into an offensive shootout. The Texans played just like they wanted to and needed to, relying on their offense to move the ball and score, and the defense finding a way to do just enough (with the timely big play/turnover) to give the team a chance to win in the second half. They had it. They were up seven with less than two minutes. I had no heartburn with the decision to go for two. With under two minutes, if a team is up nine, and given how poor onside recovery has been in this league, then that is the kill shot. Still, a seven point lead with under two minutes should hold.

However, we have the 2020 Texans defense. They may be about to take their place among the worst units in league history. Even in a pass-happy league, giving up 263 yards rushing is an almost surefire way to lose. There were some decent individual efforts, but the overall collective is producing horrific results for the Texans. In the final drive, I get trying to maintain a cushion of sorts, but Tannehill will face more resistance in a seven on seven drill. Overtime, it was the Derrick Henry show. Even on the last play, a “Wild Henry” run that everyone knew was coming, this team could not stop it, even if they employed the extreme “shotgun” defense and tried to shoot Henry in the backfield. Not that the Titans should be proud of their D. They are 5-0, but that D could prevent them from a repeat appearance in the AFC Title game. Still, their D, flawed as it is, fared better than ours.

As for the future, this Texans team is on the road to perdition. Watson is starting to find some rhythm with his receivers, and it will be a joy to watch. However, many of those efforts will be all for naught, as the defense is going to be a serious liability. Even with a 7 team playoff field, a team needs 10 wins to feel secure about playoff chances. That this team, with this defense, could go 9-1 to finish out the season is beyond improbable. I don’t normally buy into alarmist talk of trading everyone after bad starts, but given our issues on the field, and our limited assets to quickly rebuild the team (few quality draft picks, little cap flexibility), the fire sale option may have to come into play. We have two weeks before the trade deadline, and I wouldn’t be surprised if several Texans who were in this game do not appear in the rematch in Houston.

NO ONE THAT SIZE SHOULD BE THAT FAST.

BIGFATDRUNK:

It’s so odd how this Texans team has turned, isn’t it?

I mean, it’s now a fun team to watch! Selling out your defense so your offense can slightly improve might backfire! Who knew?

Ultimately, this is about what we should expect from this version of the Texans. Tim Kelly far better understands what he has at QB than BOB ever did, and the defense is a train wreck ramming into a dumpster fire.

RAC’s choice to go for two in the end was 100% the correct decision, and the outcome of the game proved this. You cannot trust this defense at all. The BE-SFs would’ve easily converted a 2-point play after scoring regardless.

RAC put his team in a position to succeed, and a barely batted down ball was the defense.

OH, LISTEN TO THAT FAT LADY SING.

MIKE BULLOCK:

The term “moral victory” really is just rationalizing a loss into a good thing, but this game screams that.

The offense did some really good things. They came from behind and almost won it. The Texans never gave up, and in the end, the better team won, but we saw a glimpse of what this offense can be and should have been all along

Hopefully that’s enough to excite a top tier GM and coach to come in and right this ship quickly.

GOD BLESS ROMEO CRENNEL!