The clinching scenario for the No. 1 seed in the AFC was clear for the Tennessee Titans. If they won today against the Houston Texans, then they would secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
And win they did, as the Titans — with help from Ryan Tannehill and the receiving corps — escaped the Texans 28-25 in Week 18.
This victory brings Tennessee to 12-5, while Houston falls to 4-13. Houston’s preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft will start tomorrow, as their season is now complete. Tennessee will be off next week in preparation for the divisional round.
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Ryan Tannehill and the Titans look to be putting every piece together for a big postseason run. With two of his best playmakers on track to be available for their first playoff game, the signal-caller must be thrilled.
Today, on the way to a 79.5 passing grade on the first review, Tanehill completed 22 of his 31 passes for 271 yards and four touchdowns. The Titans quarterback recorded three big-time throws and an adjusted completion percentage of 81.5%.
With his removal from the injured reserve this week, all signs are pointing to a recovered Derrick Henry being ready for Tennessee’s playoff run.
Foreman led the team in rushing with 20 attempts for 71 yards. He averaged 3.3 yards per carry and forced three missed tackles — good, but it’s no “King Henry.”
Hilliard looked solid too, with five carries for 34 yards.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Speaking of former members of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Julio Jones made a return after a week-long break due to a positive COVID-19 test. Jones has also been battling a hamstring injury this season, but he looked like he was on the right track, with five receptions on eight targets for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was the Titans’ receiving leader today with four receptions on five targets for 78 yards. That, combined with his single touchdown and four first downs, led to a receiving grade of 80.8 on first review.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 9, 2022
An interesting stat that seems almost unbelievable: Jones finally scored his first touchdown as a Titan. He will be a player to watch in the playoffs as he continues to trend upward.
Once again, the Titans’ offensive line did their part and allowed Tannehill to take his time to work the offense. The offensive line allowed just seven pressures, and Tannehill was sacked only once.
The Titans' Offensive Line Tightens Up Against the Texans | Wk. 18 at Houston
|Player||Offensive Grade||Run-Blocking Grade||Pass-Blocking Grade||Pressures Allowed||Sacks||Hurries||Quarterback Hits|
Houston’s rushing attack is already subpar, but the Titans’ defensive line stalled it to 64 yards.
Denico Autry was the best performer of the bunch, tallying four hurries pressures, three tackles and a batted pass at the line. Harold Landry III also performed well with two tackles, and assist and three hurries.
The Titans’ linebackers looked good today. Zach Cunningham tallied eight tackles and an assist against the run. Coverage was rough for him, though, as he allowed three receptions on three targets for 22 yards.
David Long was burned in coverage. He allowed three receptions on four targets for 55 yards. That makes six receptions allowed for 77 total yards between the duo.
Houston’s passing-attack game plan was to attack the Tennessee secondary. With two of the better pass-catchers in the division in Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola lining up against the unit, the secondary allowed 14 receptions for 172 yards and three touchdowns.
It is worth noting that it looks like the secondary and the rest of the defense laid off the brakes a little in the second half, which led to some big Houston pass plays.
Jackrabbit Jenkins was the worst offender. He allowed three receptions on four targets for 39 yards, which may not seem like that much, but he also allowed a touchdown and a first down.
Davis Mills hasn’t looked awful this season. He still has a lot to improve on before the 2022 campaign begins later in the year, but he has made a case to be the Houston starter going forward.
Today, Mills went 23-for-33 for 301 yards and three touchdowns, which resulted in an 80.2 passing grade on first review. It was a great season finale for arguably the best performing rookie quarterback in the division.
NO QUIT IN THIS TEAM ????
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) January 9, 2022
To put it bluntly, Houston’s rushing game wasn’t pretty. Yes, this has been the textbook definition of a rebuilding year for the Texans, but the running backs totaled only 52 yards.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
As previously mentioned, Brandin Cooks is one of the best receivers in the AFC South. Today, he had a quiet day with three receptions for 26 yards.
The big surprise for Houston was veteran Danny Amendola, who caught seven of his nine targets for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
The Texans’ offensive line will definitely be a big problem spot for the team to address in the offseason. Today, four of the five starters on the line graded below a 70.0. The unit allowed a total of 10 pressures, including two sacks and seven hurries. Six of the 10 total pressures, though, can be attributed to Charlie Heck.
Still, a bright spot in the performance was Tytus Howard, who had an overall offensive grade of 73.5 and didn’t allow a single pressure.
By the two-minute warning for the first half, the Titans’ offensive line had established that they were the dominant unit in this matchup in the trenches.
The Texans’ defensive line recorded 11 pressures but only sacked Tannehill once.
The Texans got shredded by the ground game, but the pass rush was a bit better. Ross Blacklock had three pressures, while Michael Dwumfour had a 33% win percentage against the Titans. Part of this struggle could definitely be attributed to the loss of Jonathan Greenard, who left the game early with an injury.
Christian Kirksey was the leading player on the unit with five tackles, two hurries and two tackles for a loss or no gain. He ended the day with a 70.3 run-defense grade on first review. He, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Neville Hewitt all graded below a 50.0 in coverage, which definitely didn’t help the efforts.
Not to pile on the Texans, but their secondary was arguably the worst unit on the field today. Down 14-0 late in the first half, an ugly pass interference call advanced Tennessee all the way to within the five-yard line. This mistake resulted in an easy Titans touchdown that turned a manageable two-touchdown margin to an out-of-reach three-touchdown lead.
With star Tennessee pass-catchers like Brown and Jones making big plays today, the unit allowed a total of 12 receptions for 155 yards in coverage.