NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 18 Game Recap: Tennessee Titans 28, Houston Texans 25

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) looks for a receiver under pressure from Houston Texans defensive tackle Maliek Collins (97) during the third quarter at NRG Stadium Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022 in Houston, Texas. Titans Texans 075

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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Tennessee Titans

Quarterback

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%.

Running Back

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.

Still, he didn’t dress out today. Instead, the Titans relied again on a committee of running backs, including D'Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard, who both had relatively quiet days.

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.

Anthony Firkser and A.J. Brown were also good targets for Tannehill, gaining 56 and 52 yards, respectively. Both caught touchdowns.

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.

Offensive Line

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
Nate Davis 71.9 67.4 75.8 1 1 0 0
David Quessenberry 69.1 60.7 79.3 0 0 0 0
Rodger Saffold 64.6 66.7 48.3 3 0 2 1
Taylor Lewan 61.5 48.8 79.3 1 0 1 0
Ben Jones 60.4 58.7 63.7 2 0 1 1
Defensive Line

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.

Kyle Peko and Jeffery Simmons took down Texans quarterback Davis Mills each to make two sacks by the unit.

Linebacker

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.

Secondary

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.

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Houston Texans

Quarterback

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.

Running Back

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.

David Johnson was the leading rusher for the offense with 28 yards on five carries. Rex Burkhead was right behind him with 12 carries for 24 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.

Jan 9, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Danny Amendola (89) makes a reception as Tennessee Titans cornerback Elijah Molden (24) defends on a two-point conversion during the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Behind him, Nico Collins caught three balls for 67 yards and three first downs. Chris Moore caught Mills’ third touchdown pass and had 38 receiving yards on the day.

Offensive Line

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.

Defensive Line

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.

Linebacker

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.

Secondary

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.

The most-targeted member was Desmond King II, who allowed five of his seven targets to be caught for 85 yards and a touchdown. Tavierre Thomas also got burned for two touchdowns.

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