The Houston Texans fell 41-38 to the Tennessee Titans in their final game of the 2020 regular season.
In a shootout, the Texans rallied from a 16-point deficit to go on a 21-0 run in the second half. The Titans, however, won on a 37-yard field goal that bounced off the right upright but over the crossbar. The win delivered the 2020 AFC South division title.
"I mean, obviously, we unfortunately had quite a few of those this year," J.J. Watt said. "I mean, it's in a position where you have a chance to win, offense drives down the field, 18 seconds left on the clock. You imagine that that at worst, you're going into overtime and then that happens."
The Texans settled for three field goals on three trips to the red zone in the first half, but scored touchdowns on four straight possessions after halftime. Deshaun Watson completed 28-of-39 passes for 365 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a 115.9 passer rating.
"I just appreciate everyone that that was available to us all the way through Week 17 to keep fighting and keep pushing forward," Watson said. "You know, that's what it's all about, just giving hope, just opportunity and try to win and we have to capitalize it. But, I don't want to sit here and dwell on the bad things just all the good things that I want to continue to take to the offseason and build that momentum with the new staff and the direction that we want to go with this organization."
Brandin Cooks finished with a team-high 11 catches for 166 yards receiving and two touchdowns and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards for the 2020 season. David Johnson recorded 120 yards from scrimmage (84 rushing, 36 receiving) and scored on a rushing touchdown. Pharaoh Brown also caught a touchdown pass in the loss.
Houston's defense struggled to contain Derrick Henry, who rushed for 250 yards on 34 carries and two touchdowns. Zach Cunningham forced a Henry fumble and led the defense with 13 tackles (eight solo) and one tackle for loss. Ryan Tannehill was 18-of-27 for 216 yards, one touchdown and a 103.3 passer rating. Charles Omenihu had four tackles (three solo), one sack for a loss of 11 yards, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit and a fumble recovery.
"He (Henry) is a great running back, he's big, he's fast, he's powerful," Watt said. "He does a good job, they do a good job with the scheme and he's very good and we obviously did not do enough to stop him today. One of those was on me and I take full responsibility for that but he had a great game, obviously."
In the first quarter, Watson threw a rare interception on a pass, intended for Cooks. The Titans converted the takeaway into a 47-yard field goal and took an early 3-0 lead.
The Titans scored their first two touchdowns courtesy of big plays by Henry. On the first play of the second quarter, Henry ran 52 yards for a score. The Titans took a 10-3 lead with 14:51 left in the first half.
On a fourth down punt fake, AJ McCarron completed a 20-yard pass to Steven Mitchell to extend the next Texans' possession. After a sack on Watson on third down, Fairbairn kicked a 43-yard field goal to cap the 11-play, 51-yard drive.
Tennessee found the end zone again after Henry ran 28 yards to get Tennessee to the one-yard line. Tannehill threw a four-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Brown and the Titans took a 17-6 lead with 4:29 left in the second quarter.
Fairbairn then nailed his third kick from 28 yards with 10 seconds remaining in the first half and the Texans headed into halftime trailing 17-9 to the Titans.
Both teams scored touchdowns on their first drives of the second half. Henry scored his second touchdown of the game on a six-yard run.
The Texans responded with a flea-flicker play on the next drive. Watson handed off to David Johnson who flipped the ball back. Watson then found a wide-open Cooks in the endzone for a 38-yard score. Fairbairn missed the extra point, keeping the Texans within two scores, down 24-15 in the third quarter.
The Titans added to their lead when Tannehill scrambled for a touchdown. Two plays earlier, Henry rushed 45 yards to get Tennessee to first-and-goal at the Houston five-yard line. The Titans took a 31-15 lead.
The Texans then scored 13 unanswered points in the third quarter. Watson threw his second touchdown pass to Cooks after a three-play, 65-yard drive. After back-to-back runs by David Johnson for 19 and 26 yards, Cooks caught a 38-yard touchdown pass. A two-point conversion try failed.
Watson would get another chance to score after Cunningham forced the Henry fumble. Carlos Watkins recovered and Houston regained possession at the Tennessee 28-yard line. Cooks caught a deep 27-yard pass to get the Texans to the one-yard line. David Johnson leaped over the middle for a one-yard score. The Texans trailed by just three points, down 31-28 with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
The Titans decide to go for it on fourth-and-11 on their next possession. Omenihu sacked Tannehill and the Texans regained possession near midfield. Watson threw his third touchdown to Brown and Houston took its first lead of the day, 35-31 with 10:14 left in the fourth quarter.
Tannehill scored on a keeper run with 1:42 remaining to give the Titans a go-ahead score.
Watson kicked off his final possession with a short pass to David Johnson that turned into a 32-yard gain. On third down, Watson found Coutee for 32 yards. Four plays later, Fairbairn added a 51-yard field goal to tie the game 38-38.
With 18 seconds remaining, Tannehill threw a 54-yard pass to A.J. Brown to set up the game-winning field goal from 37 yards just two plays later.
The Titans clinched the AFC South with the win and the Texans fall to 4-12 on the season.