For years and years and years, we’ve been subjugated and abused by Texans versus Titans games. So many of them were listless and unremarkable. So many Sundays only made bearable by hangovers and the knowledge that there will be other days and other games. I vaguely remember Kerry Collins and Kyle Vanden Bosch and Michael Roos and Jeff Fisher’s mustache. Vince Young scored in overtime to win a game in Houston once. Years of seething internal rage were released upon Cortland Finnegan. Zach Mettenberger was arrested by J.J. Watt’s selfie police. DeAndre Hopkins caught a couple of sideline passes his rookie year. There was Will Fuller’s BIG DAY a few years ago. There was a loss to Blaine Gabbert because of a fake punt going for a touchdown and free rushers. Do you remember any of this? I barely do.
The Texans and Titans have played each other 35 times. Houston is 17-18 over that time. There have been thousands of these games and most them never stained a cell in our brains.
Up until yesterday, the most entertaining Texans-Titans game occurred in 2017. Jeff Allen started at left tackle. He false-sharted three times in a row. The great pineapple man in the sky was singing and dancing and laughing. Tom Savage proceeded to convert a 4th and 19 by completing a pass to Stephen Anderson, of all people. Savage then threw an interception on the very next play. It was a perfect encapsulation of 2017. But even then, that has everything to do with heaven intervening to produce a beautiful absurdist moment, the scene an entire novel is worked up to, rather than the entirety of the game itself.
Houston has had their lives pretty much together this decade. It’s the other sideline that’s been twisted and chewed. Years of Mike Munchack and Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Five wins in two seasons with Ken Whisenhunt. Exotic Methmouth and Mike Mularkey, which was interesting and kind of worked; they just didn’t lead to enjoyable Texans-Titans games. Marcus Mariota flailing from one spectacular throw to three coward’s decisions...the fleck of gold in the dog turd. And recently, the Titans were pretty good at everything, but not great at anything, leading to mediocrity and wandering.
That’s changed this season. Tennessee has stumbled upon the joys of play action with Ryan Tannehill. They use it on any down and situation and have the league’s best play action attack on a per play basis. Tannehill’s ability and desire to throw the ball downfield has created light boxes for Derrick Henry to snap tackles and rampage through. Entire games don’t go by where you forget they have Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, Jonnu Smith, and Adam Humphries, and of course you can’t forget Khari Blasingame. Matt LaFleur’s run-run-pass offense is dead. Long live Arthur Smith. Tannehill will never regress. ESTABLISH THE RUN is a myth propagated to you by the ones who numb and control you.
As a result, yesterday was the most entertaining game these two teams have played, as long as you care solely about the game itself and the thoughts of previous team names and colors don’t break your heart. Finally, Houston and Tennessee are on the same page at the same time. Each team was 8-5. It was a a fake AFC South Championship Game.
I never wanted this game to end. I want to live forever. I don’t want to die.
It had everything. Tennessee play action attempts on 1st and 15 and 2nd and 10, Justin Reid shifting the magnetic fields with his shoulder, the Titans losing focus on Kenny Stills with their attention directed to DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, brutal Derrick Henry tackle attempts, nasty front seven play, a Jonnu Smith carry, everyone attempting and failing to cover A.J. Brown, Houston finding out play action can be used to do something more than throw into the flat, ESTABLISHING THE RUN with Carlos Hyde kind of sort of working against light boxes, dart left led by Laremy Tunsil and Max Scharping double teams instead of the puller himself, and of course, absurdist clock management and late game situations that turned Tony Romo into a disappointed father, all ending with Mike Vrabel raging against his team’s dying 2019 light, all because they lost to the Jaguars one too many times.
After Houston beat New England two weeks ago, I thought I was full and satiated forever. Yesterday I realized I’m not. I want more and more and more of these two teams, playing like this, playing against each other. Both franchises should disband from the NFL and create their own new league, where every Sunday is Houston versus Tennessee.
We’ll see what this league looks like in two weeks. Because the Texans had to go and win this one, it probably won’t matter. The knife is pressed against the Titans’ throats. Tennessee needs to get Nashty (gross) and beat New Orleans at home while Houston needs to lose in Jameis Winston’s boathouse. This could happen, but it probably won’t.
The Week 17 AFC South Championship Game I’ve always wanted is never going to happen. That’s for another day, another place, but for now, the Texans-Titans rivalry is something more than an incestuous relationship where two brothers fight over the same sister. It’s an actually enjoyable and legitimately interesting professional football game.
A SELF PORTRAIT:
The Texans won a game against a good opponent. The Titans looked like the better team for much of the game, but they were unable to convert chances in the red zone. All week long, it seemed like the Titans had the momentum going into this match-up. The Texans were coming off a bad loss against the Broncos and the Titans had won four straight games. Division games can be funny like that, and it just proves that when these two teams come to play, anything can happen.
Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins absolutely put the team on their backs during the 4th quarter. I’m at the point where I don’t think there is a better duo in the NFL then these two guys. Some might want to give the honor to Drew Brees and Michael Thomas or Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, but Watson and Hopkins have the ability to flip any game script. What they are doing is special and as long as they play, the Texans can take over any game.
This win pretty much seals our playoff chances. Sure, there are a few things that could go wrong in between now and then, but the Texans took care of business and should win the AFC South now. The up and down nature of this team means the next two weeks should be interesting as we face off against the human turnover machine Jameis Winston this weekend and the Titans again next week. For now, let’s just enjoy a win against the enemy and move on.
I’M GLAD HE’S DOING WELL.
The Texans are the Geminis of the NFL.
They are the most bipolar team in the NFL right now. When they play a good team (excluding the Ravens), they get up for those games and look like they belong against the league’s elite. However, when they play a team they should beat, they tend to play down to their level. Depending on the day, the Texans can either be a Super Bowl contender or a bottom ten NFL team. There’s no in between with them.
That being said, I have mixed reviews for the game against Tennessee. One part of me feels like the Texans rose up against a hot team and proved they can play with the best of them. However, another part of me feels like they made that game harder than what it had to be. Two turnovers in the red zone, letting a tight end run 57 yards, Watson missing open throws he’d normally make...we left potentially 14 points on the board Sunday, something we can’t do in the NFL Playoffs. Luckily Tennessee was just as bad in the red zone.
Houston should have no problem securing the division. I don’t see Tennessee beating the Saints, though weirder things have happened. Let’s see how the Texans perform against a high powered offense in Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon.
The 2019 Texans continue to confound me. I don’t know who they are; I really don’t know their identity other than “Deshaun Watson’s team”. Past O’Brien era Texans teams would struggle to beat the good teams and feast on the bad ones. Now they play well against the good ones (other than Baltimore) and play down to the bad ones. I don’t know. I really have no idea. I think the reasons exist in between the incredibly high (possibly non-existent) ceiling of Watson’s talent and the obvious continuing issues with Bill O’Brien as a head coach viewed through both the macro and micro lens.
I was not shocked but definitely surprised by the ultimate outcome of this game, but as I have said after big wins earlier this year - if you want to really impress me, don’t fall apart after the big wins. Take care of business. We’ll see. Bill O’Brien had a chance to pull me back from my skepticism of him a little bit after the New England win - but then delivered exactly what I’ve come to expect of him with the home loss against Denver. So let’s see what has in store for us next. The ride continues.
LUCK DOES NOT SHINE ON THE TITANS.
HANG IN THERE, TOUGH GUY.