Texans stun Titans, shake up AFC South race

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Texans, with their worst record in the league, played Saturday’s game focused on themselves.

But in the process, they made a big impact on their division rivals, disrupting the AFC South race.

Houston stunned division foe Tennessee 19-14 on Christmas night at Nissan Stadium for its second win of the season. The win snapped the Titans (7-8) on a five-game losing streak and moved into first place in the AFC South. The up-and-coming Jacksonville Jaguars, riding a three-game winning streak, now lead the division.

The biggest thing for Texans? The win snapped their nine-game skid. His only previous win was on Oct. 9 at Jacksonville.

“It shows the type of guys we have in this locker room,” wide receiver Brandin Cooks said. “To keep fighting no matter what.”

The Texans’ winning drive came late in the fourth quarter. With Houston trailing 14-13, quarterback Davis Mills completed three straight passes, including back-to-back deep balls, a 20-yarder to wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and a 37-yarder to Amari Rodgers, to get the Texans to go within a score. go to range Two plays later, Mills connected with Cooks for the go-ahead touchdown.

Houston missed the ensuing two-point try, and their six-point lead left the door open for Tennessee to regain the lead. But rookies Christian Harris and Jalen Pitre picked off quarterback Malik Willis, starting in place of the injured Ryan Tannehill, on the Titans’ final two drives. Pitre’s interception came after a desperate Willis throw to Treylon Burks in the end zone with five seconds left.

Pitre and Harris became the third rookie duo in franchise history to record interceptions in the same game. And they weren’t the only Texan rookies to get takeout, either.

After blowing a 10-7 halftime lead, Houston got back into the game when Illinois undrafted linebacker Jake Hansen stripped star running back Derrick Henry in more territory. The ball was recovered by defensive lineman Jonathan Greenard, leading to a 10-play drive and a 54-yard field goal that cut the Texans’ deficit to 14-13.

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

The Texans have been eliminated from the playoffs since the conclusion of Week 13, but they have continued to play hard. They entered Saturday’s game with momentum despite a long losing streak. How is it? Well, they held fourth quarter leads against the Cowboys and Chiefs the past two weeks, losing to Dallas by four and falling to Kansas City in overtime.

In Nashville, they found a way to finish.

“It shows us that if we keep pushing, we’ll see the light,” said Pitre, who had nine tackles to go with his interception. “We did what we had to do this week.”

According to Smith, the Texans saw this contest as the start of a new three-game season: at Tennessee, against Jacksonville, at Indianapolis. Three division rivals. Even with their playoff chances gone, Houston could still finish with the top division record among AFC South teams.

By beating the Titans (3-2 division record), the Texans (2-1-1) clinched first place.

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

Draft implications

Great image, that’s really what matters to jeans. How did his win affect his chances of being the first overall pick? With the worst record in the league, Houston currently has the inside track on the top pick in the 2023 draft. It’s been that way for most of the season.

Houston (2-12-1) is now just a half-game ahead of Chicago (3-12), which has the second-worst record and fell to Buffalo on Saturday.

According to Tankathon, the Texans’ other first-round pick, acquired last offseason from the Browns in the Deshaun Watson trade, is currently ranked 10th overall. Cleveland was eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday with their loss to New Orleans.

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Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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