Hey 8-4: Titans stay atop AFC South by beating Texans 24-13
By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee left tackle Taylor Lewan remembers only too well how the Titans always seemed to find a way to lose through his first two seasons in the NFL.
Now they’re finding ways to win, and that’s all that matters.
The Titans gave up the first 10 points, then allowed only a field goal in the second half before LeShaun Sims intercepted a pass in the end zone to end Houston’s final drive in a 24-13 win over the Texans on Sunday . Derrick Henry made the final margin look a little better with a career-long 75-yard touchdown run.
“A win or loss, there is no asterisk by it,” Lewan said.
Titans running back DeMarco Murray agrees.
“It doesn’t matter how it happens,” Murray said. “You get another check in the win column. We will take that any day.”
The Titans (8-4) now have won six of their last seven, and they remain ahead of Jacksonville atop the AFC South. They also improved to 4-1 inside a division they haven’t won since 2008. Beating AFC South opponents has been the first goal for Tennessee since finishing 9-7 and missing a playoff berth yet again.
“It cost us a chance to go to the tournament,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
For Houston (4-8), the injuries and losses just keep piling up. Five Texans, including four on offense, left the game with injuries. They also lost their second straight and for the fifth time in six games.
“I’ve never been in this situation, so I’m learning on the job, too,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said.
Here are some things to know about the Titans and Texans:
Marcus Mariota ran for a TD , his fifth this season. He teamed with DeMarco Murray and Henry to pile up a season-high 198 yards rushing against a Houston defense that came in ranked seventh in the NFL, allowing only 96.3 yards per game. Murray said the offensive line deserved a game ball for blocking so well. “We controlled the line of scrimmage from start to finish,” Murray said.
Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is the focus on offense anytime, and that became even more crucial with receiver Will Fuller out again. Then receiver Bruce Ellington hurt a hamstring, followed by tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and receiver Braxton Miller with concussions. Running back Alfred Blue also suffered a concussion.
So Savage threw officially to Hopkins 14 times, and the receiver made eight catches for 80 yards . It’s the eighth time this season he’s caught at least seven passes in a game, and he topped 70 yards receiving for the ninth time. Both lead the NFL.
The Titans added four sacks Sunday, and now they have 12 combined over the past two games. That matches the best two-game total since this franchise moved to Tennessee and the sixth time the Titans have piled up that many sacks. They last totaled 12 sacks in October 2016.
Yes, Savage threw for a career-high 365 yards . But the Titans held Houston to 53 yards rushing, the eighth straight game they’ve limited an opponent to 100 yards or fewer.
MIX AND MATCH
The Texans’ injuries have gotten so bad that running back Andre Ellington, claimed off waivers in October, played his first game for Houston. And he wound up at slot receiver after the other injuries during the game, and he finished with five catches for 56 yards.
MUSIC CITY ADVANTAGE
The Titans now have won nine of their last 10 games at home dating back to last season. But the best example of their reclaimed home-field advantage came inside the final two minutes with Houston facing fourth-and-4. Texans lineman Jeff Allen, at left tackle rather than his right guard spot that he started at most of this season, false started. Not once or twice, but three straight times.
“In all of my years, I haven’t heard the crowd get that loud and wild,” Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said.
AP freelance writers Brian Hinchman and Terry McCormick contributed to this report.
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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker