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Crown 'Em: Titans Capture AFC South with Wild Win Over Texans


HOUSTON – Crown 'em.

The Titans on Sunday captured the AFC South crown with a heart-stopping 41-38 win over the Texans on a day when running back Derrick Henry eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark while establishing himself as the NFL's rushing leader for the second year in a row.

The Titans did it in dramatic fashion, winning on a field goal on the final play of the game.

"I'm just happy to be a part of this team, a part of this organization, be with my teammates, with the guys on this team," Henry said after the game. "They're my brothers. Great accomplishment for us collectively, and just glad we were able to finish with a W in the division, be able to keep playing. It got shaky at the end, but we all stuck together and was able to get it done."

It was a crazy ending for sure.

The Titans took the lead on a five-yard touchdown run by quarterback Ryan Tannehill with 1:42 left, but Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn kicked a 50-yard field goal with 18 seconds left in regulation to make it 38-38.

Instead of taking a knee and playing for overtime, Tannehill connected on a 52-yard bomb to receiver A.J. Brown with just 10 seconds left. It set up Sam Sloman's 37-yard field goal on the final play of regulation to cap a wild ending. It gave the Titans their first AFC South title since the 2008 season.

"Our guys are a very resilient group," Tannehill said. "Been a bunch of games all year where we fought through adversity. It's nothing new for us. Obviously you don't like to let the lead go, but we were able to fight through. Guys believe in each other, this team, and as long as there is some time left, we're going to keep playing our tails off and try and win the game. That's when we did, and fortunately enough we were able to come away with the win."

Henry ran for 250 yards and two touchdowns in the contest, and he finished the season with 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Tannehill threw for 216 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and Brown finished with 10 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown. He finished the season with 1,075 receiving yards.

Even before kickoff, the Titans had clinched a playoff berth as a result of Miami's loss at Buffalo.

As a result of Sunday's win, they'll host the Ravens next Sunday at 12:05 p.m. in the playoffs at Nissan Stadium. It will be the first home playoff game for the Titans since the 2008 season.

After the game, the Titans were decked out in "Won, Not Done" shirts.

"It's never easy in this league, and I hope that everybody appreciates that. We don't take winning for granted," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. "I'm proud of our guys, our coaches, for the work they put in, and the entire organization. Excited for our owner, for Amy (Adams Strunk) and her family, to be able to do this. To be able to clinch this in Houston where she grew up, where our team was founded, I think there is a lot of reasons. So just incredibly gracious to be the coach of this team and try to continue to improve."

The Titans came out hot, lost a lead, and then found their footing to win, and finished the regular season 11-5.

The Titans scored first on a 47-yard field goal by Sloman, which was set up by an interception from safety Amani Hooker. After the Texans responded with a field goal, Henry began to take over.

Henry broke free on a 52-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to give the Titans a 10-3 lead.

After another field goal by the Texans, Henry busted loose for another long run to give the Titans the ball on the Houston one-yard line. It set up a four-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Brown, which made it 17-6 midway through the second quarter. During one stretch, Henry had consecutive carries of 52, 16 and 28 yards.

The Titans, who entered the contest with just 19 sacks in 15 games, sacked Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson four times. Titans defenders Brooks Reed, Harold Landry and Desmond King were all credited with sacks in the first half and defensive lineman Jack Crawford got him late.

The Titans led 17-9 at the half.

The Titans stretched their lead to 24-9 on their first possession of the second half on a six-yard run by Henry, which capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive.

The Texans cut the lead to 24-15 in a flea-flicker that ended with a 38-yard pass from Watson to receiver Brandin Cooks.

But the Titans answered back with another Henry-led drive that was capped off with a five-yard run by Tannehill, which made it 31-15 with 4:29 left in the third quarter.

Then things got scary.

The Texans countered with another Watson-to-Cooks touchdown, and following a fumble by Henry, the Texans scored again on a David Johnson run to make it 31-28 Titans with 1:20 left in the third quarter.

The Texans then took the lead 35-31 on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Watson to tight end Pharaoh Brown with 10:14 left in the contest.

Then came the heart-stopping finish, which was set up by Brown's big catch, and Sloman's big kick. Sloman was just called up from the practice squad on Saturday after the Titans put Stephen Gostkowski on the Reserve/COVID-19 list last week.

"It's been awesome to see everybody so excited for me after that last kick," Sloman said with a smile on a Zoom call after the game. "This is No.1 for sure (in terms of biggest kicks in my life). That's the first last-second field goal I've ever attempted in my life."

Brown said he'll never forget the wild celebration.

"I've never had an experience like that,'" Brown said. "I never won a championship in college – I won in high school, but this time it means more. It was a crazy ending."

The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Week 17 at NRG Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)

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