Titans Win a Thriller Over Texans, 20-17

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- On the game's final play, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson dropped back and spent what seemed like an eternity with the ball in his right hand.

When he finally let it go, it was clear the clock would tick down to zero at the end of the play.

And when it did, the Titans celebrated.

"Damn, I never thought a three-hour game would feel so good," Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard said, referencing the team's seven-hour plus game, a loss, in Week One. "And we got the win. Now that was huge."

Yes, the Titans won a thriller on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.

Kicker Ryan Succop's 31-yard field goal with one minute left gave the Titans a 20-17 lead, and the team held on for the win. The Titans improved to 1-1 with the victory and will now face the Jaguars (2-0) next Sunday in Jacksonville.

"I'm proud of our defense. I'm proud of our offense, I'm proud of the coaches," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said after the game. It was his first win as head coach of the team. "This win in the NFL is not about the coaching. It will never be about the head coaching. Losing will. But winning is all about the players and the staff getting them ready.

"I think (this shows) they are willing to fight, compete, prepare. That's exactly what the message was this week. Everybody throws around culture, what kind of team you have when you lose games, and things don't look so good; and they responded, they competed, they prepared, they came together and played hard for each other."

Blaine Gabbert started at quarterback for the Titans, and players stepped up around him early. Marcus Mariota was in uniform, and watched the entire game from the sideline.

The Titans started back-up tackles Kevin Pamphile and Tyler Marz, promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, and they played well. Defensive lineman J.J. Watt was relatively quiet, held without a sack, and the Texans never mustered much pressure.

The Titans showed some creativity on offense, running the Wildcat. Vrabel went for it on a gutsy 4th and 1 deep in his own territory, and the Titans got it. The team executed a beautiful fake punt.

"It's a huge win," said Gabbert, who completed 13-of-20 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, and executed the game-winning drive in the closing minutes. "Getting Vrabel his first win as a head coach was awesome. This team had a lot of adversity throughout the week. The guys fought their way to this win, and I'm just extremely proud of those guys. Our defense did a phenomenal job containing that offense. The guys that had to step in and play on the offensive line did an absolutely tremendous job, opening holes for Dion (Lewis) and Derrick (Henry), and giving me time to throw the football."

Henry (18-56) and Lewis (14-42) helped the Titans get to 100 rushing yards as a team, and the defense contained Watson, sacking him four times. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey had two sacks.

"The defense was holding it down throughout the game," Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "Then, the offense was finishing it off at the end. I mean it was a great one, two, three punch this time. I'm definitely excited for this team overall. We finally came out on the right end and we're trying to get back to the winning ways. We still have a long way to go and a long road ahead of us, but I'm excited because it was a big divisional win and Coach Vrabel's first win. Very exciting. Every phase of the game today made a difference."

The Titans started with some trickery.

Titans safety Kevin Byard, lined up short and to the left of the snapper on the punt team, took the snap from Beau Brinkley and threw a left-handed pass to Dane Cruikshank, who was lined up uncovered outside as a gunner.

Cruikshank caught the pass and raced downfield, and into the end zone to give the Titans a 7-0 lead.

During the week, Byard admitted to throwing "ducks" when the team practiced the play.

"Wait to the game," Byard told them. "Everyone was saying during the week: It looks ugly, it looks ugly.' Today, everyone was telling me on the sideline was like "Wow, What a play!

"My passer rating is crazy right now."

In fact, Byard's 66-yard touchdown pass to Cruikshank was the longest touchdown pass by a defensive player in the Super Bowl era, per the NFL. The previous record of 18 yards was held by Los Angeles Rams defensive back Ed Meador (November 19, 1967).

The Titans extended the lead to 14-0 on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to receiver Taywan Taylor, who made Texans miss on the way into the end zone. The drive featured Henry lining up in the Wildcat formation, and a big stiff-arm by receiver Corey Davis, who threw a Texans defender off him on his way to a first down.

The defense made plays early, too.

Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson made the defensive play of the day when he outjumped Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone to record his first career interception. The play kept the Titans ahead 14-0.

Momentum began to swing, however.

The Texans got on the scoreboard late in the first half on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Hopkins, with just 58 seconds left, and the Titans led 14-7 at the half.

The Texans cut the lead to 14-10 with 2:39 left in the third quarter on a field goal by kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn. Casey recorded his second sack in the second half, and linebacker Kamalei Correa also got to Watson and sacked him.

The Texans then took the lead early in the third quarter on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Watson to receiver Will Fuller, who got behind Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler to make it 17-14 with 13:25 left in the game.

But the Titans tied it up with a 42-yard field goal from kicker Ryan Succop with 9:43 remaining, making it 17-17.

And then Succop delivered the game-winner with a minute left, and the Titans held on.

"It was a huge win, just to bounce back after our loss last week," Lewis said. "It shows the character of our team. I think it is definitely going to be a good building step. We still have to learn. We could still have played a lot better today. We have to take the coaching and move on to next week."

The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Week 2 of the 2018 season on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

The Tennessee Titans prepare to take on the Houston Texans in Week 2 of the 2018 season on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)