The Houston Texans wanted to play spoiler for their final act of the 2021 regular season. Unfortunately, their spoiler act was spoiled in a 28-25 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
After being shut out 21-0 in the first half, the Texans rallied to score 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, but were unable to pull off the comeback. With the Week 18 win, the Titans earned a No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC playoff picture and a first-round bye.
"We just had a tough start in the first half and just wasn't able to get anything going, but I thought we finished strong," Head Coach David Culley said. "Again, never questioned this locker room about how they play. They're always going to play hard."
Rookie QB Davis Mills was 23-of-33 for 301 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 128.5 passer rating in his 11th career start. WR Danny Amendola, in his first game back since Week 12, caught a career-tying two touchdown passes and hauled in seven passes for 113 yards in his best game of the season.
"Just going out there and being comfortable in the offense and being able to play fast, I feel like I did that, especially in the second half and it was fun," Mills said. "I think a lot of guys on our team played really well today. Obviously, the line protected extremely well. Danny had a great game. Made some big-time plays."
On defense, DB Terrence Brooks had a team-high eight tackles (six solo) and a pass defensed. DL Maliek Collins recorded a sack, two quarterback hits and a tackle for loss. QB Ryan Tannehill tossed four touchdown passes, and completed 23-of-32 for 287 yards and no interceptions. Former Texan RB D'Onta Foreman rushed for 69 carries on 21 yards.
"I feel like it's definitely something to build on," Collins said. "Playing complementary football, we've got to get some turnovers, though. That's the main emphasis. We've got to get them more opportunities to score and get a stop there at the end, but I feel like we definitely are going in the right direction."
After a scoreless first quarter, the Titans took an early lead when Tannehill threw three touchdown passes in the second quarter. Foreman scored first on a touchdown run, but it was nullified after a flag for illegal substitution. Three plays later, Tannehill threw a five-yard pass to Anthony Firkser to give the Titans 7-0 lead with 7:40 left in the second quarter. With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Tannehill led two more scoring drives with touchdown passes to A.J. Brown and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.
The Titans led 21-0 at halftime.
"I came in at halftime and said, look, we needed to go up-tempo just to change the pace because we weren't doing very well in the first half," Culley said. "We were kind of stalling out there."
Houston's defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs to start the second half while the offense on every drive (three touchdowns, one field goal). After a 20-yard pass play to Rex Burkhead, Mills threw his first touchdown of the day on a flea-flicker to Chris Moore for 28 yards to cap off an eight-play, 72-yard scoring drive.
Mills connected with Nico Collins on completions for 24 and 13 yards to set up a 31-yard field goal by Ka'imi Fairbairn. The Texans trailed 21-10 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
The Texans were quickly in Titans territory on the next series. Amendola started the drive with a big 37-yard catch and ended the drive with both a seven-yard touchdown reception and successful two-point conversion from Mills. The Texans closed in on the Titans, down 21-18 early in the fourth quarter.
Houston trailed 28-25 but would not get another possession. With the loss, the Texans finish the 2021 season with a 4-13 record.
The Titans, scoreless since the second quarter, responded when Tannehill threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. Tennessee extended its lead to two scores again, up 28-18 with 7:00 left in the game.
On their final possession, the Texans responded with another touchdown catch by Amendola. Mills threw a 26-yard pass to the veteran wideout for his second of the day.
Check out the best photos from the Houston Texans Week 18 matchup with the Tennessee Titans.