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Breaking down the key plays | Texans vs. Titans

Houston Texans Team Analyst John Harris breaks down the big plays in the Texans-Titans Week 8 matchup.
12:02 in the 2nd quarter
No score
1st and ten
+30 yard line

The Titans had picked up a first down to get the ball out from their own goal line. On this first down play, though, they came out in 11 personnel, disguised, really, as 21 personnel. TE Chig Okonkwo lined up as a fullback in the I-formation with RB Dontrell Hilliard behind him. The Texans looked to be in cover three as QB Malik Willis dropped to pass. He initially looked to his left then looked back to his right and eyed WR Cody Hollister on a deep dig route. DB Desmond King II came off the right edge on a blitz and disrupted Willis just enough to alter the throw to Hollister. DB Steven Nelson then drafted off of Hollister and sped in front as Willis threw a tad late to his receiver. Nelson picked off the ball for the Texans second takeaway of the first half and ran it back to the Titans 13-yard line.

4:29 in the 2nd quarte
Texans lead 3-0
3rd and two
-29 yard line

The Titans hadn't gone to the zone read concept often, well, as often as I expected them to in the first half. But, they saved it for the perfect time. They came out in 11 personnel with QB Malik Willis in the shotgun, RB Derrick Henry on his right hand side. Just prior to the snap, I noticed DB Jalen Pitre reach over and hit DL Mario Addison on his outside hip. I don't know exactly why he did that, but my gut told me that he was making sure that Addison knew he was there to take the QB on zone read. So, on the snap, finally it was zone read and the play that I was most worried about with Willis in the game - DE delays to take the QB and Henry gets a head start into second level with the ball in his hands. And, that's exactly what happened. Addison paused to account for Willis and that left a gaping hole for Henry who darted past Addison and the two blocked Texans linebackers. Once in the secondary, Henry shook the safety, cut back to the left side and beat everyone to the end zone. Impressive to say the least to see a 6-4, 247 lb. RB be THAT agile and fast.

0:31 in the 2nd quarter
Titans lead 7-3
3rd and two
-41 yard line

The Titans were looking for just a field goal before halftime and faced a key third down. They put a tight bunch to the right side of the formation with Henry in the backfield. They then slid the pass protection to the left side, leaving Henry on DL Jerry Hughes, essentially one-on-one, after QB Malik Willis' play action fake to Henry. As Willis hit the last step of his drop, Hughes dipped underneath Henry and drew a bead on Willis. He reached out and nearly grabbed Willis for the sack, but the strong rookie QB pulled away. As he did, though, he attempted to step back first and then to his right out of the pocket. However, Big Roy Lopez Jr. didn't allow him to get to his right as he came up with the timely sack that forced a punt, instead of a field goal opportunity before halftime.

4:11 in the 3rd quarter
Titans ahead 14-3
3rd and five
+42 yard line

The Texans came out in a 3x1 bunch to the field with TE Jordan Akins in a tight split to the other side. The Titans put dime personnel on the field and planned to blitz S Andrew Adams off the Texans right side. RB Rex Burkhead motioned out to the trips bunch side on the left, leaving QB Davis Mills in empty. It looked like the Texans were running some sort of mesh route with TE Brevin Jordan and Akins running the mesh, but it was hard to tell what they were running because Titans stud DT Jeffery Simmons was so fast into the backfield, it didn't matter. Simmons got on OL Scott Quessenberry's right edge and when Adams blitzed RG Justin McCray peeled off that double team to handle Adams. When he departed, Simmons just sprinted into the lap of Davis Mills for a gut punch sack to end that third quarter potential drive.

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