Six Things That Stood Out

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Six Things That Stood Out for the Titans in Sunday's 17-10 Win Over the Texans

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HOUSTON – The Titans beat the Texans 17-10 here on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

Here's a look at six things that stood out from the contest:

King Henry

Take a bow, Derrick Henry. With veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill back in Nashville, and rookie Malik Willis making his first career start, the Titans needed a big day out of their workhorse running back. Henry, of course, delivered. At NRG Stadium, Henry turned into the Yulee Bulldozer once again while racking up 200-plus rushing yards for the fourth time in his career against the Texans, and the sixth time in his career. With the sixth 200-yard rushing performance of his career, Henry tied O.J. Simpson and Adrian Peterson for the most in NFL history. Henry ran for 219 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries against the Texans, and in the process, he toppled (this week shattered) the 100-yard mark for the fourth week in a row. Henry also set the franchise mark for career touchdowns (75), breaking Eddie George's mark (74). George congratulated Henry via FaceTime after the game. Henry thanked his linemen, and those who block for him. "They were the ones that make it happen," Henry said. "Without them, I wouldn't have the success that I've had. I told them: I've got their backs, and they've got my back."

The Rook

Willis also got a congratulatory message after the contest, this one from Tannehill, via text. After taking first team reps throughout the week, Willis got a chance to make his first career NFL start here on Sunday. It wasn't perfect – Willis threw an interception, he took a bad sack toward the end of the first half, and he missed a wide open Chig Okonkwo on the sideline. But Willis also showed leadership, and he guided the team to a win. Willis completed 6-of-10 passes for 55 yards in the game, when he was sacked three times. He also ran five times for 12 yards, and nearly got into the end zone on a sprint to the pylon. Looking back, Willis was happy – because the final result was a good one. "It was good – we got a W," Willis said with a smile. "That's all you want to go out there and do. Yeah, there's things you want back, but it was my first start, so I can't be too critical of myself. … Everybody was telling me: We've got your back, and that was cool."

Defense, Defense, Defense

The Titans were suffocating on defense on Sunday. Up until the very end, it looked like the Astros (5 runs on Saturday night) would end up scoring more than the Texans on Sunday. But then came a last-second touchdown, which took the shine off the dominance on this day. The Texans managed just 161 yards and 10 first downs on Sunday, and 90 of those yards came on their final drive. Jeffery Simmons, Bud Dupree and DeMarcus Walker all had sacks for the Titans, and cornerback Kristian Fulton had an interception. The Titans held the Texans to just 2-of-14 on third down, and Texans running back Dameon Pierce had just 35 yards on 15 carries. Linebacker David Long Jr. once again led the team with eight tackles, including two tackles for a loss. Simmons, playing on a bum ankle, was a disruptive force all game. "We stood up to the challenge of stopping the run, and making them earn it," coach Mike Vrabel said. "It could have been a really, really special performance had we been able to get a stop there at the end. But you have to do it each and every week."

Hilliard's Contribution

Once again, Henry was dominant on Sunday. But how about the burst from running back Dontrell Hilliard? With Henry hammering away, Hilliard stepped in and produced 83 yards on eight carries against the Texans, including runs of 21 and 30 yards. Hilliard also picked up a key first down when the Titans were backed up in their own territory. Henry and Hilliard combined for 302 yards against the Texans. "I just want to take advantage of every opportunity that I get," Hilliard said. "The o-line did a great job, and they came and played physical. At the end of my game, I just want to play my part. I'm appreciative to be here, and to be able to play with a guy like Derrick."

Areas to Improve

The Titans manhandled the Texans on Sunday on both sides of the football. But it wasn't perfect, and the team left Houston knowing it has areas that need to be cleaned up. Some of that will take place with the return of Tannehill, the team's unquestioned starter. On this day, the Titans didn't throw the ball much simply because they didn't have to on a day when they ran the ball for 314 yards. Among the areas that need to be cleaned up: Penalties. The Titans committed six penalties for 35 yards, and while that's not a massive number, some came in short period of time. Kicker Randy Bullock misfired on an early field goal, Robert Woods lost a fumble, and the Titans were just 4-of-12 on third down on offense. All the mistakes were forgivable against the Texans, but the challenge will be much bigger next week.

Chiefs Up Next

As I made the rounds through the Titans locker room after the game, it was clear the Chiefs were already on the minds of many of the Titans, starting with Vrabel. What the Titans have done since starting 0-2 is pretty impressive, winning five straight games despite dealing with a bunch of injuries. But the challenge next week against the Chiefs – at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday Night Football – is a much bigger one. The Chiefs are 5-2, and they've scored 223 points through seven games this season. Vrabel wasn't the only one who was ready to turn the page not long after the win over the Texans. Several players also talked about the Chiefs. "We just have to keep it going," safety Kevin Byard said. "Celebrate this one, flush it, because we have a huge challenge next week."

The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Week 8 at NRG Stadium.

The Tennessee Titans prepare to take on the Houston Texans in Week 8 at NRG Stadium.

The Tennessee Titans arrive at NRG Stadium for their Week 8 Game against the Houston Texans.

The Tennessee Titans travel to Houston for their Week 8 game at NRG Stadium. (Tennessee Titans)

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