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Breaking down the key plays | Texans win at Titans

John Harris breaks down the big plays in the Houston Texans' Week 16 win against the Titans.

Week 16 Key Play Breakdown

1. Jordan Akins third-down catch
1st Quarter - 4:15 remaining
+39 yard line
Titans leading 7-0

The Texans put 13 personnel in the game and put two of those three TEs to the left side in a Y-wing situation - Teagan Quitoriano at Y, Brevin Jordan at the wing. TE Jordan Akins lined up as the fullback and went in motion to his right side. WR Chris Moore was at the X on the right side and when the ball was snapped, Moore ran hard upfield against his defender in man coverage. The timing of this combination route has to be just perfect and it was. Akins timed up his wheel route with Moore's release which forced Titans S Kevin Byard to have to go underneath Moore/Titans CB to stay with Akins. He ended up two steps behind and QB Davis Mills lofted one to the perfect spot where Akins could just run under it for a HUGE completion down into the Titans red zone. I was standing right in line with that completion and it was perfect - route perfect, timing perfect, throw perfect and catch/run perfect. That catch-and-run set up the Texans inside the ten and they would score a TD few moments later to tie game.

2. Jake Hansen forced fumble

4th Quarter - 13:53 remaining
-44 yard line
Titans leading 14-10

The Titans picked up a first down to end the third quarter around midfield and it looked as if it was going to be another Derrick Henry Special sort of fourth quarter. So, on first and ten, the Titans came out in a standard I-formation with his TE as a lead blocker. The Titans ran lead zone to the left with Henry following his fullback up in C-gap (between T & TE). But, LB Jake Hansen came up to play contain and keep Henry from taking a direct path to the sideline. As such, Henry bent the run back to the inside, but when he did Hansen wheeled around to help on the tackle as Henry powered for about four or five yards. Henry never saw Hansen because his vision was back inside trying to fight off the tackle of DL Roy Lopez Jr. As Henry was fighting off Lopez, Hansen hit Henry and immediately stripped the ball out. JUST PERFECTLY - TOTAL TEXTBOOK STRIP! The ball sat on the turf for a millisecond before Texans DL Jon Greenard pounced on it. The Texans went down and kicked a field goal to cut the lead to 14-13 What a massive play that was by the rookie from Illinois!

3. Phillip Dorsett's big catch
4th quarter - 4:30 remaining
-33 yard line
Titans leading 14-13

The Texans had 11 personnel in the game which I thought was going to be a sure running down on second and four. But, the Texans offensive staff had other ideas. They put trips receivers into the field with TE Jordan Akins as the lone Y-TE attached to the line of scrimmage on the right side. They ran one of Mike Leach's (RIP Coach!) favorite routes - mesh. It's a simple concept with one receiver from one side and one receiver from the other side running matching shallow crossing routes, meshing near the middle of the field. Akins ran his mesh route to the left while Phillip Dorsett ran his toward the Texans sideline. The mesh route concept forced just a slight bit of hesitation for Titans CB Roger McCreary, who was a step behind Dorsett. QB Davis Mills lofted one to the exact spot where only Dorsett could catch it. The Texans pass catcher snagged the throw which put the Texans in Titans territory with a 20-yard catch.

4. Deep pass to Amari Rodgers
4th quarter - 3:49 remaining
+47 yard line
Titans leading 14-13

On the very next play, the Texans left the same personnel in the game and came out in what I call a Bandit formation - Pro set (TE, Z) to right, twins receivers to the left. Mills spied man coverage on Texans WR Amari Rodgers to the outside and saw a middle of the field safety nowhere able to help over the top. All Amari had to do was win on the go route and all Davis had to do was put the ball in a position where Amari could make a play on it. Check and check! Mills lofted one right down the sideline over McCreary's head and Rodgers kept running right underneath it. He ran through the catch and moved the ball down to the 10-yard line. My goodness - two absolute dimes and two great, CLUTCH catches!

5. Brandin Cooks TD
4th quarter - 2:58 remaining
+6 yard line
Titans leading 14-13 (not for long, though)

The Texans moved the ball down to the six after a strong four yard run by RB Royce Freeman to set up this second down play. Now, if you're like me, you've seen this situation a ton from the Texans this year - get inside the ten and have to kick a field goal. Not this time. The Texans started with a bunch formation to the right side with WR Chris Moore on his own to the left side. WR Brandin Cooks went in motion to the left, creating a two by two formation on each side. Moore ran an out route to the outside just inside the pylon, but Davis Mills didn't want that route. He wanted Cooks at the back of the end zone. The Texans veteran receiver pushed hard up the field and then broke to the outside. As he did, former Texans DB Lonnie Johnson grabbed Cooks (for which he got called for a penalty) but the Texans receiver ran through that to the back corner of the end zone. With excellent protection, Mills threw a laser shot to the back corner which Cooks snagged for the touchdown. I mean, WHAT WAS THAT?!? Beauty of a throw and catch and what a drive.

6. Christian Harris INT
4th quarter - 1:40 remaining
-45 yard line
Texans ahead 19-14

Titans QB Malik Willis had just run for a first down and put a ton of pressure on the Texans defense with his running all day. But, with time winding down and the Titans needing a touchdown, the Titans came up to the LOS quickly. Willis set up in the shotgun with two receivers to each side. LB Christian Harris was in zone coverage into the boundary. The Titans ran double slants on that side of the field. Harris didn't bite on the inside receiver's slant, staying true to his coverage area and Willis never expected him to be there. Willis threw it right to him and Harris EVENTUALLY held on for the back breaking interception, his first as a Texan. Thing was that earlier in the game, Harris could've had another one that it looked as if he just misjudged it on an amazing sidearm throw by Willis. But, he got that one late in the game, THAT ONE, the one the Texans needed in a big way to help close the door on the Titans.

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