NASHVILLE – The Titans beat the Texans 35-14 on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston to advance into the postseason.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the game as the team begins to turn its attention to this weekend's playoff game against the New England Patriots.
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn't flinch when he stepped into the starter's role back in October, and he didn't flinch on Sunday when the team needed him most. Tannehill's response to Houston's opening drive was a gut-check drive of his own, which put the Titans on track. Tannehill threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, and his passer rating of 130.8 helped secure his position as the NFL's top-rated passer (117.5) for 2019. Tannehill guided the Titans to a 7-3 mark in his 10 starts, and despite the fact he's never played in a playoff game, he's provided reasons not to doubt him.
The Rest Helped
The Titans opted to sit running back Derrick Henry for the team's Week 16 contest against the Saints, and Henry admitted it was tough to watch. But the team had the big picture in mind, and on Sunday it came into focus against the Texans. Henry ran for 211 yards and three touchdowns in the contest, and his 53-yard sprint was a beautiful sight. Not only did the run clinch the 2019 rushing title for the big back, it also provided evidence his nagging hamstring injury is perhaps a thing of the past.
AJ's More Than OK
Titans rookie A.J. Brown keeps making big catches -- and moving into the record books. During his four-catch, 124-yard day, Brown joined Isaac Curtis (1973), Willie Gault (1983) and Randy Moss (1998) as the only rookies with at least four touchdown receptions of 50 yards or more since 1970. Brown joined the group with his 51-yard grab in the first quarter. Also on Sunday, Brown became the franchise first rookie since Bill Groman to record five 100-yard games in a season. Brown's chemistry with Tannehill gives the team a dangerous tandem headed to Foxborough.
A Mariota Spotting
Marcus Mariota looked a lot different on Sunday compared to the last time he played – on October 13 at Denver, the day Tannehill replaced him. But the bearded No.8 stepped in and did his job on the two snaps he was in the game. Mariota threw a 24-yard strike to Brown that put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. His other snap was a handoff to Henry for a short gain. Plenty wondered: Why use Mariota now? Perhaps a better question: Will we see him again vs. the Patriots?
The Titans have regularly had some under-the-radar players make plays in big wins this season, and it happened again on Sunday. Outside linebacker Derick Roberson recorded another sack, giving him three in the past two games. Receiver Rashard Davis, elevated from the practice squad earlier in the week, made a big third down catch on a day when tight end MyCole Pruitt had a touchdown catch. Kicker Greg Joseph made all five of his extra points, but the most encouraging development in the kicking game on Sunday might've been his six touchbacks on kickoffs.
Red Zone Success
The Titans scored touchdowns on all three of their drives in the red zone, and it continued a season-long trend. During the 2019 season, the Titans scored 34 touchdowns on 45 red zone trips for an NFL-leading 75.6 percent. The team's 75.6 percentage scoring touchdowns in the red zone was the NFL's third-best percentage since 1991 and the best percentage since the 2013 Denver Broncos (76.1). In scoring on all three goal-to-go possessions, the Titans finished the regular season with 22 touchdowns on 25 goal-to-go drives. Against the Patriots, the Titans will need to keep this going.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Sunday's Week 17 matchup at NRG Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)