Winners and Losers from Titans 42, Texans 36

Wow…

The Cardiac Titans were back after a week of sweet, sweet blowout relief. After racing out to a 21-7 early lead, Tennessee saw the Texans come roaring back, scoring 16 unanswered to take a 23-21 lead.

From that point on, the two teams traded haymakers. Derrick Henry ripped off a 94-yard touchdown run that was immediately answered with a long scoring strike from Deshaun Watson to Will Fuller. Eventually, the game came down to a familiar site for the 2020 Titans: Ryan Tannehill with the ball in his hands, needing a score to win or prolong the game. And their quarterback came through for them again.

The Titans are now 5-0 and — critically — 2-0 in the AFC South through the first five weeks of the year. They have a big test coming up this week with Pittsburgh — the only other unbeaten AFC team — coming to Nashville, but we will have plenty of time to break down that matchup this week. For now, let’s get to winners and losers from Titans 42, Texans 36.

Winner: Derrick Henry

We, here at Broadway Sports, have been preaching patience with Henry after starting the season without many of the big explosive runs that we’ve become so accustomed to seeing from the star back. The Titans had been close consistently, but today they finally popped the big runs.

Henry had his four longest plays from scrimmage of the 2020 season in this game, including a 94-yard romp that now ranks as the second-longest run of his career behind, well, you know the one.

In total, Henry rushed for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries and added another 2 catches for 52 yards through the air. It was another unbelievable performance from what’s becoming an unbelievable career for The King.

He sure didn’t look overpaid today.

Loser: Malcolm Butler

Butler was burnt for what looked like it might have been a back-breaking 53-yard touchdown to Will Fuller immediately following Henry’s long run. The Texans seemed to go after Butler frequently in this game and he didn’t make enough plays when challenged. Not one of his better efforts.

Winner: Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill turned the ball over twice — one fumble and one interception — but he made up for it with 364 yards and 4 touchdowns on 30-of-41 passing and yet another game-winning drive, already his 4th of the year.

He put up those numbers despite being without Corey Davis and having Jonnu Smith leave the game early with an ankle injury. Tannehill remains in total control and now has 1,368 yards and 13 touchdowns in the first five weeks of the season, a season-long pace of 4,378 yards and 42 touchdowns. Should there be some MVP chatter if this continues? You bet your ass there should.

One moment that stood out to me was the game-tying touchdown at the end of regulation. After completing a pass to Jeremy McNichols in the middle of the field with no timeouts remaining, Tannehill hurried the Titans to the line, but instead of spiking it to kill the clock, the quarterback quick snapped the ball and threw a beautiful fade ball to A.J. Brown in the corner of the end zone.

That’s clearly something that they had worked on previously for that type of situation, but the execution was spectacular. The risk of throwing the quick fade there is almost zero. It will allow maybe a couple of extra seconds run off the clock compared to the spike, but you’ll trade that time difference for the extra shot at the end zone against a scrambling defense.

Excellent composure under pressure from the Titans leader.

Loser: Ty Sambrailo

Sambrailo was in a tough spot. He was forced into the game for an injured Taylor Lewan for a third straight week and immediately put in a spot where he was all alone against J.J. Watt on a 3rd and long. That’s asking for trouble and I’m not even going to rip him for getting beat there. Watt has made much better tackles look just as foolish in his outstanding career.

I will, however, rip him for failing to pick up the fumble when it was in his hands and he — for reasons I will never understand — tried to get up and run with it? That was terrible and it was compounded by a penalty on the very next drive.

Credit to Sambrailo for settling down as he got into the game, but that opening sequence was absolutely terrible.

Winner: Arthur Smith

Another week, another 30-point showing for the Titans offense. That’s now 9 of their last 12 regular season games and 4-of-5 this season. It’s also the 5th time that they’ve dropped 40 on an opponent since Arthur Smith took over the offense, a feat the Titans had accomplished just 13 times total in the 20 years prior.

The Titans broke their single-game record for total yards, posting 601 yards of offense to top the 1991 Oilers, who previously held the record thanks to a 583-yard showing against the Cowboys. It also saw them return to their hyper-efficient ways, averaging 8.59 yards per play, good for the 6th-best mark in franchise history. That’s now the third top-6 yards per play output the offense has posted in their last 16 games.

This is an elite offensive football team.

Winner: Jeffery Simmons

Simmons picked up right where he left off in Minnesota, dominating the interior offensive line of the Texans and acting as a rare bright spot in an otherwise struggling defense. He finished with one sack and created another for his running mate DaQuan Jones.

He’s easily the best player on the Titans defense right now.

Loser: The rest of the Titans defense

The Titans are 5-0 so it’s nice to be able to fix problems when you’re winning, but the defense is absolutely a problem right now. There is talent on that side of the ball, but it’s just not clicking right now.

The third-down defense was bad again, allowing 7 conversions in 14 attempts and they continued to struggle in coverage, allowing Deshaun Watson to throw for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Adoree’ Jackson coming back will help — a lot — but he won’t solve everything.

Winner: Anthony Firkser

With Jonnu Smith leaving the game early on with an ankle injury, Firkser stepped up in a big way, posting his first career 100-yard game with 8 catches, 113 yards, and a touchdown. He’s been incredibly reliable since forcing his way from the practice squad to the 53-man roster in 2018 and this was a monster game for him that included a key block on Derrick Henry’s game winning run.

Loser: Stephen Gostkowski

Just when you thought the Titans had left their kicking woes in the past… Gostkowski gets a field goal blocked (not his fault) and then pushes another one wide (his fault). Those kicks would have saved Titans fans a lot of heartburn if they’d been converted.

Winner: A.J. Brown

Brown only finished with 56 yards, but he did what star wide receivers do: come up with big time catches. His grab in the corner of the end zone was phenomenal and that’s the kind of play the Titans haven’t gotten from receivers in years past.

Comments

  1. This is the most fun it has ever been to watch a Titans game with Henry, Tannehill, and Brown making plays all of the time. Throw in Humphries and Firkser for third down plays, and an occasional long bomb to Raymond. Love it.

    1. Agreed. Watching the game tonight I had to admit to myself that I was watching the best offense with the best QB, best RB and best WR in Titans history.

  2. The Titans defense will improve dramatically once Adore Jackson returns -also- as Kristian Fulton starts getting more experience and plays more games. I played safety in college and know good DB’s. Kristian Fulton will be a great CB he just needs more experience. The Titans were very fortunate to get him in the 2nd round. J-Rob keeps crushing the draft we have talent everywhere now. Notice how San Francisco got both their CB’s back tonight and dominated the Rams. SF went from the basement and getting crushed by Miami – because they were without their starting CB’s – to contender with their CB’s back. I’m amazed we are 5-0 with our best corner back injured especially in todays NFL.

  3. Mike I feel last years defense was much better. It shows what great players Jurell Casey, Logan Ryan and Wesley Woodyard are. To bad J-Rob can’t make a deal with Denver and get Casey back. Casey tore his bicep and is out for the year with Denver. Casey is total class and a great football player. I would send the Giants some picks and get Logan Ryan back we need his saavy and intelligence our defense would improve with him. Our defense needs only a slight improvement and we’re an elite team. We are that close !! J-Rob needs to make a deal with someone for a quality Defensive Tackle. Any ideas on DT’s available ??? Maybe rookie Larell Murchison will surprise us later in the year. What have you thought of his play and Isaiah Macks.

    1. I agree with your thoughts on the impact that Casey, Ryan, and Woodyard made for this defense. Nevertheless, I think the end result with her defense of line is that it is better. Our CB group and run defense sorely miss is Logan Ryan right now. But if we get Adoree healthy and let Butler/Fulton Slide down the depth chart into the 2/3 spots respectively, it changes things dramatically like you said. Besides that, Ryan wasn’t coming here for less than $10M, so J-Rob made the right call. Woodyard May be the most overlooked loss of those three. I’m not sure how much he would have wanted to stay another year as a mentoring player/coach type special teams guy; but he probably would have been worth it in terms of the improved play we would be getting from Evans & Brown with Woodyard in that room and in their ears on game day.

      1. I mean i really like some pieces on the DL. but last in the league in sacks is a tough way to win. our pass rush and secondary both being a bit shaky is tough to see getting much better.

        1. It’s hard to sack a QB who has an open receiver to throw to. I don’t know if it’s schema or what, but I’m really concerned with the play by with Brown and Evans at the ILB position. Gettin Adoree back isn’t going to help them. He is going to make coverage and, as a result, the pass rush better. But I’d like to see some stats on how our ILBs are faring in coverage, cause it doesn’t look great. I don’t think the defensive front is the problem as long as everyone stays healthy (depth IS a problem there). Joseph is too slow and has to play too far off to be effective against any receiver with any quickness or speed. I’m glad we brought him in with the Ajax injury, but he’s not getting it done. Butler has always been prone to giving up a big play, and combining that and the problems with Joseph and a promising rookie learning on the fly is not a recipe for success.

          1. i agree im really worried about brown’s coverage. it has been pretty bad. i also agree the secondary needs to be better, but there are plenty of times where the qb has all day. both watson and allen the past 2 weeks have been able to sit and just read the field for way too long. Adoree should help but im with you we still have some issues across defense. idk if its playcalling players, injuries covid. but it needs to get better. at least its early in the year, they should get better as the season goes on, if they can stay healthy.

  4. I know it’s tough to call someone that got injured a loser, but Lewan injury is the reason Sambrailo was out there in the first place. I love Lewan, but I’ve also been preaching that he’s too much of a liability to be a franchise LT. Constantly injured, suspended, or getting penalized. I think drafting a project end of the first round player might finally catch up to JRob this year Bc we need big Panda and he’s nowhere to be found.

    1. I was thinking the opposite in regard to Big Panda. The fact that Lewan may not finish the season makes me feel more impressed that J-Rob had the vision to draft Wilson in the first round this year. Whatever his timeline is for becoming a meaningful contributor, I’m glad he’s in place and hoping the best for his emergence.

    2. has he had a penalty this year? i dont think its fair to judge injuries this year. i dont know how you can consider him a franchise LT. that being said. when he was out we’ve looked fine, up until the sack fumble

      1. Franchise LTs are not easy to find. There sure as hell aren’t 32 in the league at any given time. You better have a rock solid plan in place before you decide to jettison Lewan if you’re playing GM. As a side not, we could theoretically let him walk after this year and eat a pseudo-manageable amount of dead cap, but if he plays out his contract (we’d likely extend him prior to the ’23 season if he’s still the long term answer), he’ll still be in his prime at age 32.

  5. something i noticed, that wasnt a huge fan of was the third and 13 rush call. i thought that was an awful call and i felt the titans got very conservative with the lead. it all doesnt matter as much because they won, but A. Running on 3rd and 13 seemed like a give up play. then on two 4th and shorts to kick field goals didnt exactly feel right either.

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