The Tennessee Titans got what they came for and a lot more with Sunday’s 35-14 road victory over the Houston Texans.
The Titans had a simple goal for Sunday. All they had to do was win and they would qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2017, as they needed no outside help to reach the postseason.
Getting an assist from the Texans, who sat quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver DeAndre Hopkins to rest for the postseason next week vs. Buffalo, the Titans took care of business with a lopsided victory to put themselves in the postseason with a date next weekend at New England.
In the process, the Titans, who finished 9-7 for the fourth straight year, also rode the rushing of Derrick Henry, who ran for three touchdowns and snatched the rushing title away from Cleveland’s Nick Chubb with a 53-yard clinching touchdown run in the fourth quarter. That run gave Henry, who sat out last week with a hamstring injury, 211 yards on the day, and 1,540 yards for the season and was one of his three scores on the day.
Houston, which started backup A.J. McCarron at quarterback, made some early noise, going right down the field against Tennessee’s defense on the opening drive for a 7-0 lead.
But Ryan Tannehill answered right back, hitting rookie A.J. Brown for a 51-yard score that tied the game, 7-7.
The Titans then took the lead for good on the next series as Tannehill capped the drive with his second touchdown pass, finding tight end MyCole Pruitt for a 1-yard score. That score stood until halftime.
Tennessee then put together a statement drive with the second half kickoff, using 10 running plays, including eight from Henry, who cashed in for the touchdown to make the score, 21-7.
Houston battled back and cut the lead to 21-14, but Henry and the Titans went back to work in the fourth quarter. Henry scored from a yard out, fighting his way through three Texans tacklers to nudge the ball into the end zone that pushed Tennessee’s lead to 28-14.
Then late in the game, with the Titans closing in on a playoff berth and a date in New England, Coach Mike Vrabel was trying to give Henry a shot at the rushing title, being informed that he needed 39 yards at the start of the possession to overtake Chubb. Henry responded in a big way, capping the title and the Titans clinching of a playoff berth with the 53-yard run to the end zone.
The Titans will face the Patriots, whom they did joint practices with during training camp. New England (12-4) was upset by Miami at home Sunday and fell to the No. 3 seed, as the Kansas City Chiefs took the second seed and the first-round bye that comes with it.
Brown gets 1,000
In addition to Henry claiming the rushing title, rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving on the season. Brown, a second-round pick from Ole Miss, had 132 yards receiving on four catches, including his touchdown reception on the first drive. He finished the season with 1,059 yards receiving and becomes the first Titans wide receiver to break 1,000 yards since Kendall Wright in 2013. Brown is the first Titans rookie to to have 1,000 yards in a season since Earnest Givins did for the Houston Oilers in 1986.
Marcus Mariota, benched after week six when the Titans were 2-4, played in the game for two snaps, including one where Tannehill was lined up as a wide receiver. It was Mariota who threw the pass that Brown caught to over 1,000 yards. The pass was good for 24 yards.