Texans defense dominates in win over Titans
HOUSTON (AP) — Houston coach Bill O’Brien knows Sunday wasn’t a great game by the Texans.
Still, after what happened last week, the coach was perfectly content with the performance since it led to a victory.
"We had to get the win," O’Brien said. "It wasn’t pretty. But who cares? It’s a win."
Brian Hoyer threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns and Houston tied a franchise record with seven sacks to help the Texans to a 20-6 win over the mistake-prone Tennessee Titans.
The Texans rebounded from an embarrassing 44-26 loss to the Dolphins despite playing without Arian Foster, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in that game. The win leaves them second in the AFC South and they could be tied for the division lead if the Colts lose to the Panthers on Monday night.
"I think that gets overlooked a little bit," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "We’re still in it."
A 21-yard touchdown reception by DeAndre Hopkins put Houston on top in the second quarter and the Texans (3-5) didn’t trail after that. Nate Washington’s 42-yard TD catch extended the lead to 17-6 in the third.
Zach Mettenberger threw for 171 yards with an interception in his second straight start in place of rookie Marcus Mariota, who is out with a knee injury. Mettenberger was hurried and harassed all day to remain winless in eight career starts, with three against the Texans.
The Titans (1-6) had three turnovers in their sixth straight loss since a win over Tampa Bay in the opener.
"It’s hard when you lose one game, much less what’s happened the last six," Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Our defense is playing really well. That gives you a chance. Got to fix (those) special teams mistakes and do a better job offensively."
Alfred Blue started in place of Foster and had 40 yards rushing and 33 yards receiving.
Whitney Mercilus had a career-high 3 1/2 sacks and J.J. Watt tied a career high with nine quarterback hits and added 2 sacks, including one where he caused a fumble that the Texans recovered early in the fourth quarter.
"That’s the type of defense we expect to be," Watt said.
Watt, who tied a career high with 20 sacks last season, has more sacks through eight games this season (8 ) than he did through eight games last year (7).
"So maybe y’all could stop talking about how down of a year I’m having," he said with a laugh. "That would be good."
A 24-yard field goal after that fumble pushed Houston’s lead to 20-6.
Hopkins, who entered the day as the NFL’s leading receiver had eight catches for 94 yards. He now has 2,882 yards receiving in his career to pass Andre Johnson for most yards receiving in franchise history in a player’s first three seasons.
Hoyer started his third straight game for Houston after losing his job in the season-opener to Ryan Mallett, who was released on Tuesday after missing last week’s charter flight to Miami.
"As an offense, there’s a lot of things we need to do better," O’Brien said. "But I thought that for the most part (Hoyer) did a good job."
A 44-yard field goal cut the lead to 10-6 midway through the third quarter.
Hopkins caught four passes on a drive that ended with a 42-yard touchdown reception by Washington to push the lead to 17-6 with about four minutes left in the third.
Houston outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney injured his back in the first quarter and returned to the game twice before leaving for good in the second quarter. He was not made available to reporters after the game and the Texans said he left before the locker room opened after the game.
The Texans took a 7-3 lead when Hopkins jumped and reached over Jason McCourty to grab a 21-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter.
Eddie Pleasant recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to give Houston the ball back. But the offense stalled and the Texans settled for a 38-yard field goal that made it 10-3.
The Titans led 3-0 early after Ryan Succop made a 35-yard field goal on their opening drive.
Houston rookie first-round pick Kevin Johnson had his first career interception and likely saved a touchdown with a hard hit on Kendall Wright after a catch in the third quarter.
NOTES: Texans left tackle Duane Brown left in the second half to be evaluated for a concussion. … Houston S Kurtis Drummond suffered a concussion. … Wright injured his right knee in the third quarter and didn’t return.
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