Injuries were eventually going to catch up with the Titans — and they did today at home against the 1-8 Houston Texans.
It was a predictably slow start for the 8-2 Tennessee Titans. Once again, no Derrick Henry, no Julio Jones — even Jeremy McNichols was forced to miss this one. That put all the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Ryan Tannehill, on what proved to be a nasty, rainy day in Nashville.
The Texans, who quite literally have punted the 2021 season, jumped out to a 12-0 lead. They capitalized on a Tannehill interception, and then put together a long touchdown drive to really take command of this game. Tyrod Taylor was responsible for the lone Houston touchdown, scrambling and hurdling his way into the endzone.
The Titans were unable to score in the first half, and a big intentional grounding call likely cost Tennessee three points before halftime.
The score entering the third quarter was 12-0, in favor of the Texans. With the rain falling hard and several key defensive injuries, this one didn’t look good for the Titans.
Houston came out running, and the Tennessee defense couldn’t stop it. A handful of first downs was just what the Texans needed. Even after the Titans earned a stop, a punt bounced off of Chester Rogers to set up the Texans inside of the five. Taylor ran in another.
It was a 19-0 lead for the Texans, which seems insurmountable at this point in the game. A.J. Brown was also ruled out for the remainder of the game. As was Marcus Johnson.
Tannehill, in the midst of a dreadful day, needed to show us something — and he finally did. A quick drive ended in a touchdown throw to Dez Fitzpatrick, as the rookie receiver was able to haul in his first career touchdown pass. Randy Bullock missed the extra point, making it a 19-6 score.
Tennessee quickly got a three and out, but failed to capitalize on offense. The defense immediately gave them another opportunity with another stop, and Tannehill went back to work. A huge play over the middle to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine had the Titans in business, but Tannehill was picked off by Desmond King on the very next snap.
However, the ball was down at the one yard line, putting the Texans in immediate danger of a safety. The Tennessee defense force another three and out, as Taylor misfired twice under pressure.
In must score territory now, Tannehill looked to shake off another interception. He kept things short, moving the sticks to enter the redzone working with a short field. Dontrell Hilliard caught a dump down pass and was headed for the endzone, but he fumbled. The ball fell into the endzone, and Anthony Firkser fell on it for the score. It was quite the way to score, and Bullock converted the extra point this time.
Suddenly, we had a 19-13 game with under eight minutes to play.
The Titans’ defense stayed hot, forcing yet another three and out. Houston punted again, and it was Tennessee’s ball on their own 16 with under seven minutes to play. However, Tannehill tossed another interception — and this one felt like the one that would end the game. It was Desmond King again, and the former Titans took it back to the Tennessee 15.
Houston didn’t do a thing with the ball, but they forced Mike Vrabel to use all of his timeouts, and then converted on a field goal to put the game out of reach.
A 22-13 score was enough to put the Titans away, ending the comeback effort.
It was an ugly game from the start, as the Titans were playing with a skeleton crew today. Losing A.J. Brown along the way didn’t help matters, and the week 13 bye week can’t get here fast enough.
It was a game that the Titans needed Ryan Tannehill to win for them, and he responded with four interceptions — understandable with the cast of characters he was forced to work with today.
The Titans, now 8-3, are back in action next week, set to take on a white hot Patriots team.