Titans tame Texans to lead the AFC South

Delanie Walker scores in the third quarter to give the Titans a lead they would not relinquish.   (photo by Donn Jones titansonline.com)

Delanie Walker scores in the third quarter to give the Titans a lead they would not relinquish. (photo by Donn Jones titansonline.com)

The Tennessee Titans beat the Houston Texans by a final score of 24-13 in Nissan Stadium on an absolutely beautiful Sunday afternoon. Titans cornerback LeShaun Sims intercepted a pass in the end zone in the final moments, and running back Derrick Henry provided the clincher with an electrifying 75-yard touchdown run to seal the come- from- behind victory.

The Titans improved to 8-4 with the win, and they remain tied atop the AFC South with the Jaguars, who beat the Colts on Sunday. The Titans are now 4-1 vs. the AFC South this season, and 9-1 in their last 10 home games. Having beaten the Jaguars early in the season, the Titans would have the AFC South championship and a playoff berth if the season were to end now.

The Texans took a 3-0 lead on a 23-yard field goal by kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn, which followed a fumble on a punt return by Titans return man Adoree’ Jackson. Following a missed 40-yard field goal by Titans kicker Ryan Succop, the Texans took a 10-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Savage to tight end Stephen Anderson.

The Titans cut the lead to 10-7 when QB Marcus Mariota’s run capped a 10-play, 75 yard drive midway through the second quarter. Titans RB Derrick Henry put the Titans inside the 10 on a 24-yard run, and the drive was kept alive on a 13-yard pass from Mariota to DeMarco Murray on third-and-7 from the Houston 46. The Titans tied the game 10-10 on a 43-yard field goal by Succop, which capped a four-play, 37-yard drive with three seconds before halftime.

With the game tied, and the Titans facing a third-and-14 from the Houston 40 late in the third quarter, tight end Delanie Walker fought for the sticks, and got close enough to convince coaches to go for it on 4th and one. The Titans got the first down on the next play, and the go-ahead score from Walker on the ensuing play gave the Titans their first lead at 17-10.

“I love this team,” Walker said. “There is something special about this team. The guys in this locker room have fight. They never give up. And I can’t ask for anything more than that. We find a way to win games, and that makes me happy.”

The Texans cut the lead to 17-13 on a 42-yard field goal by kicker Ka’imi Fairburn with 4:37 left, and were driving late when Sims made his interception in the end zone with 1:13 left to play.

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 15-of-23 passes for 150 yards, and he ran for a touchdown.

“It feels good,” Mariota said when asked about the team being 8-4. “It feels really good but it’s not satisfying. That’s just the start. Looking around the locker room with these guys, I think everyone feels the same way. In order to get where we want to go, we’ve got to continue to put these together. 8-4 is not going to cut it. We’re looking forward to next week and hopefully, we can continue to win these games.”

The Titans travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals (5-6) at 3:05 pm CST on Sunday, December 10, then to San Francisco against the 49ers (2-10) at 3:25 pm CST on December 17, before closing out the season at home with Noon games against the Rams (8-3) on Christmas Eve and the Jaguars (8-4) on New Year’s Eve in Nissan Stadium.