It's been four seasons since Deshaun Watson worked his magic in his rookie campaign of 2017. Over that time, there have been a number of games that have completely blown my mind. Like, that's the best football game I've ever seen sort of blow-your-mind-ness. Like, best ever. Those games? I can rattle them off like the names of my kids. New England at Gillette. Seattle in the Pac Northwest. Philly in December. New Orleans to start last season. When those games were over, it was reasonable to wonder whether we just watched one of the best games we'd ever see. Each game seemed to top the other. The only connection between those games was that the Texans lost in disheartening fashion late in each of those four games. It's time to add another one to the list - 2020 at Tennessee. Trying to decipher what I just saw at Nissan Stadium will take a while, to say the least. What an incredible football game...with the worst gut punch ending of any of them. Unfortunately, the Titans outlasted the Texans in overtime 42-36. Here are my Harris Hits from the afternoon in Nashville.
I can't tell you how often I heard media types of all kinds that didn't give the Texans a chance of surviving the first half, much less the rest of the entire game. Yet, the Texans went 15 rounds, 12 rounds for the youngsters, with one of the top heavyweights in the NFL and many that saw the game will tell you, it's a shame that the Texans aren't flying home with a W.
The game really turned in the Texans direction on one play. With a 21-10 lead in the second half, the Titans stopped the Texans on the opening drive of the second half. After that stop, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill moved the Titans into field goal range. I remember thinking that if the Texans could just get one stop and force a field goal, it was a minor win for the defense maintaining a two score deficit. Okay, so a two touchdown deficit isn't great, but a Texans touchdown on the next drive and the lead would've been just seven. But, BUT, Texans safety Justin Reid leapt between the tight end and the wing on the field goal team and shot directly in front of the holder and kicker. Titans kicker Steven Gostkowski kicked the ball right into Reid and the Texans recovered as the ball bounced behind the line of scrimmage. That kept the game at 21-10 and the Texans sideline went apoplectic.
After Reid's field goal block (the second in consecutive seasons in Nashville), the Texans scored 26 points over the remainder of the game, scoring four touchdowns on five drives for the next 22 minutes or so. The offensive efficiency was off the charts for the rest of the game.
As with those games mentioned above, the one player that gave the Texans a chance to win was Deshaun Watson. As such, I've got to emphasize his outstanding play. On a day when the weather wasn't kind to either quarterback, Watson lit up the skies with footballs and his receivers caught nearly every one of them. He had a four touchdown game with no interceptions, in fact the Texans didn't turn the ball over once on Sunday. Watson, unlike some of those games in the past, was given plenty of time, for the most part, to pick apart the Titans secondary. He completed 28 of 37 yards for 335 yards and those four touchdowns, a rating of 138.9.
What stood out so much to me on this day was Watson's ability to hit receivers in EVERY area of the field. He threw a touchdown to Darren Fells on fourth down on a short out route. He darted one to Brandin Cooks over the middle of the field that gave the Texans a seven point lead late in the game. He threw a dime on the run to Randall Cobb in the corner of the end zone on a key third down in the third quarter. He threw an absolutely beautiful pass DEEP down the left side of the field to Will Fuller V behind everyone on the Titans defense. Four touchdowns. Four different types of throws.
The only thing was that Deshaun didn't have an escape type play, but he didn't really need one because the Texans offensive line did a solid job protecting him in the pocket. The offensive line may not have A+ grades after this one due to some troubles in the run game, but in pass protection, it was fairly solid.
Will Fuller V and Brandin Cooks spun the Titans cornerbacks around like tops, in particular Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler. The former Patriots cornerback seemed befuddled by the Fuller V/Cooks aerial circus. Because Deshaun had plenty of time to throw, those two could run nearly every route on the route tree and the Titans really had no answers. Yet, when Butler made one play, he was talking trash to Will Fuller V. Yet, Fuller toasted him to the tune of six catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. The majority of those catches, just like in 2018, came against Butler.
A lot will be made of the two point conversion at the end of the game but I've got to give credit to Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons who got his paws on the pass and knocked it down. Unfortunately, that was the second year in a row that he'd done that in Nashville against the Texans. In 2019, he tipped a Deshaun Watson pass that ended up as an interception that led to an eventual Titans touchdown. In that game, following Simmons' pass breakup, the Texans were able to answer with a touchdown and field goal that gave them the win. Unfortunately, the Texans never saw the ball again.
In this game, though, the Texans weren't so lucky. The Texans set out three receivers to the left side of the formation and as the route developed, Texans receiver Randall Cobb broke WIDE OPEN in the middle of the end zone. I saw him and started screaming "COBB! COBB!" as if Deshaun heard me. Thankfully, Deshaun saw the same thing. Watson, then, moved enough to get a clean lane to throw to Cobb for the game clinching two point conversion. Simmons threw up his hand and knocked the ball to the turf, keeping the Titans hopes alive...just barely, but alive.
I thought after the game there would be a ton of "what was RAC thinking going for two?" throughout the cesspool that is social media; however, the majority of people agreed that it was the right move to try to put the Titans on ice right there. I was completely, 1000% all for going for two yet on our radio broadcast, I was alone on an island on that one. I had a few hours to think on it and I'm even more convinced that my original answer was, and is, still to go for two. Here's the crux of the argument, so to speak, and the question that you need to ask yourself...ON THIS DAY, did you trust your offense to make a two point conversion or your defense to stop a two point conversion? Your answer to that one question is, ON THIS DAY, how you would approach this situation. I say ON THIS DAY because that may change based on which unit is thriving that particular day.
The Titans had generated nine turnovers in their first four games and had a turnover margin of +8. In other words, the Titans took advantage of teams' turnovers and weren't giving it back to their opponents. On Sunday, though, that changed as the Texans, fresh off two turnovers forced against Jacksonville, turned over Tennessee twice and both led to touchdowns.
The first turnover was also #99's 99th sack of his career. J.J. Watt ran right through left tackle Ty Sambrailo. The Titans swing tackle was in the game because Pro Bowl tackle Taylor Lewan had gone out with a knee injury. It didn't take long for J.J. to introduce himself to Sambrailo quickly. Watt ripped right past the Titans tackle and knocked the ball out, creating a mad scramble for the loose football. Eventually, outside linebacker Jacob Martin snatched the rock away from everyone deep in Titans territory. The Texans scored three plays later when Watson scrambled to his right to hit Randall Cobb in the corner of the end zone.
The second turnover was one of the best plays I've seen cornerback Bradley Roby make. The Titans trailed by one and wanted to take the lead again on a big play as they had on Derrick Henry's 94-yard jaunt earlier in the quarter. Tannehill wound up and threw deep to one of the fastest guys in the game - Kalief Raymond. Roby, though, was step for step with Raymond and as the ball descended out of the air, Roby went and stole it away from Raymond for his first interception of 2020, the TEAM'S first interception of the season as well. The Texans drove back down and scored on fourth down when Watson drilled Brandin Cooks with the toss in the middle of the end zone.
That should have been it. That sequence was just amazing to be honest. Derrick Henry 94 yard go-ahead touchdown. Two plays later, Will Fuller V caught a 53 yard bomb. First play of the next series, Roby intercepts Ryan Tannehill on the bomb. Just incredible.
Alright, I'm drained after that one. See ya next week when the Packers come to town - oh boy!