By 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, the outcome of the Texans battle with the Tennessee Titans meant nothing in regards to the upcoming playoffs for the good guys in Deep Steel Blue. As such, there were only a handful of starters that took the field to start the game and few in the game in the second half. As such, the Titans took home a 35-14 win that propelled them into the playoffs with a trip to New England on Saturday night. As such, here are my quick Harris Hits from Sunday afternoon.
Quarterback AJ McCarron said after the game that he was so excited to be back playing, competing on the field, and he more than handled his business during the day. I thought he threw the ball extremely well, especially so given the fact that he didn't have the full offensive arsenal at his disposal. His lone interception was unfortunate because he threw such a good ball on fourth down that got tipped into the hands of Titans safety Kevin Byard. Either way, AJ finished 21-for-36 for 225 yards and numerous quality throws during the day.
His scramble for a touchdown was the eighth rushing touchdown for a Texans quarterback, which is an obvious record for the Texans. Deshaun Watson accounted for seven of those this year and McCarron's scramble made number eight. I was so pumped for AJ to reap the benefits of a touchdown run and he was pumped himself to get into the end zone, which at the time cut the Titans lead to seven late in the third quarter.
It's been well documented that the Texans have struggled all year to put the ball in the end zone on the first drive of the game. In fact, the Texans had only scored three points all year on first drives, but McCarron led a 15-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Duke Johnson rushing touchdown to start the game 7-0. Figures, right? In fact, McCarron led two 15+ play touchdown drives, which was a first in the history of the franchise.
Defensive lineman Carlos Watkins saw a ton of time on the field on Sunday and capitalized on those reps. He was excellent playing the run as he finished with six tackles on the day. Of those six stops, I'd guess, off the top of my head, three or four were for less than two-yard gains. He was strong at the point of attack, stacked blocks and shed blockers quickly and found the football.
Fellow defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes made a similar impact, especially early in the game. He finished with five tackles, one week after drawing a key holding penalty at Tampa against the Bucs. Vanderdoes was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and was one of the most highly sought-after high school products in the nation. But, injuries in college and early in his professional career set him back and put him on a journey that has taken him here to Houston. Sunday, he made the most of the most reps he's seen since his college days.
One of my favorite plays of the day was a fourth-and-2 conversion on the Texans second long scoring drive. On that play, wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. was given the responsibility of blocking one of the Titans linebackers to allow one of the Texans receivers to get free for a possible first down reception. Now, Mitchell Jr. is 180 lbs. after three biscuits and a couple of sodas. On that play he had to block Rashaan Evans who is 235 lbs. Mitchell hit him with all he had and kept Evans away just enough for Johnson to get loose for three yards and a first down. That really got the Texans sideline fired up knowing what Mitchell had done for the team on that play.
Then, a few plays later, on third-and-10, McCarron found Mitchell Jr. on the crossing route for a significant 16-yard gain and a first down.
Receiver DeAndre Carter led the Texans pass catchers with six catches for 65 yards, one week after he made THE catch of the day in the division-clinching win at Tampa Bay. He's been such a key player for this offense - the proverbial Swiss army knife, doing whatever is asked of him.
The Texans finished the season with six players with 34 catches or more and four with 40 catches or more. In comparison, in 2018, Hopkins had 115 catches and no one else had more than 32 catches.
Well, it's time for Buffalo. See ya Saturday, everyone.
Houston Texans take on the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium for Week 17 of the 2019 NFL season.