Three takeaways from the Texans' win over the Titans

Three takeaways from the Texans' win over the Titans

The Texans used a monstrous run game to attack the Titans in the “Monday Night Football” AFC South rematch.

Houston charged to a 34-17 win to stop Tennessee in its tracks while also adding to its own playoff stock.

There were plenty of highlights, as well as some franchise and NFL firsts, in this matchup of two young quarterbacks. We saw the return of Marcus Mariota and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson find five-time Pro Bowl receiver Demaryius Thomas for his first two scores with the team.

Here are three takeaways from Houston’s win at NRG Stadium:

Revenge never tasted so sweet

The Titans took home a 20-17 win with a last-minute field goal in these two teams’ earlier matchup in Week 2.

That loss sandwiched the Texans 0-3 start, but they have certainly turned things around since then. Monday’s win made Houston the first team in league history to win eight consecutive games immediately following three straight losses. It’s also the second-longest active streak in the NFL behind the Saints’ 10-straight wins.

The win came at the perfect time with the playoff picture taking shape. According to the ESPN broadcast, Houston increased its playoff stock to 40 percent and with a schedule that still includes the Browns, Jets and Jaguars, it isn’t hard to see the Texans reaching the postseason.

The Texans utilized the run against a top rushing defense

Houston has won most of its games behind the arm of Watson, but running back Lamar Miller powered it to this win. 

His longest carry, a 97-yard score, highlighted the team’s 24 unanswered points in the first half. It’s the league’s longest touchdown run since Miller went for 97 yards during Week 17 in 2014. He is the only player in NFL history with two 95-plus yard rushing touchdowns in a career, and the fourth player with two 90-plus yard touchdown runs, joining Chris Johnson, Ahman Green and Bo Jackson.

It was an impressive feat, no doubt. But, perhaps more impressive is that this run came against the Titans’ defense, which entered the game allowing 99.8 rushing yards per contest — the 10th best run defense in the league. Miller nearly matched that with one run. He went on to finish with 162 yards on 12 carries.

The Texans also had help from Watson (70 yards) and fifth-year player Alfred Blue (49), and for only the second time this season recorded more rushing yards than passing — in the Week 7 matchup in Jacksonville, Houston’s offense ran for 281 yards while passing for 181. It was the biggest yard differential since Week 16 last season.

Marcus Mariota played well, the rest of the team didn’t

It was almost painful to watch the game play out and track Mariota’s statistics at the same time.

The fourth-year quarterback made his return after having limited practice time most of the week recovering from a stinger sustained against the Colts on Nov. 18, and he looked great. It’s just too bad the rest of the team didn’t.

Mariota didn’t throw his first incompletion until 1:09 left in the game. He was a perfect 19-of-19 passing for 271 yards to that point. But, he didn’t receive much help from his offensive line, defense, or even coaching staff.

He was sacked six times for a loss of 43 yards. The offense was called for five penalties, including three false starts and one holding call (the fifth was a delay of game), and was overcome by the pressure of J.J. Watt and company. Defensively, the Titans gave up 462 total yards, and even the play calling back fired.

Remember Miller’s 97-yard score? Tennessee ended up turning the ball over on downs to set up that drive. The Titans were on the 3-yard line, needing just one yard for a first down. But, instead of giving the ball to Derrick Henry, the team’s 247-pound running back, the Titans trusted tight end Luke Stocker with the task. And, Stocker’s first career rushing attempt didn’t end well.

None of this helped Mariota, who is the first quarterback since Derek Carr to lose a game where he attempted 15 passes and completed at least 90 percent of them — the two signal callers are the only two players to have this stain on their resume in the Super Bowl era.

Mariota went on to finish 22-of-23 passing for 303 yards and two touchdowns.