Christmas arrived early for the Houston Texans in the form of a 19-14 win in Nashville, snapping a nine-game losing streak.
"It was great," QB Davis Mills said after the game. "I mean, these guys have been fighting so hard week in, week out, all season, and we just haven't gotten the results we wanted. But we feel like really these past couple of weeks and the tail end of the season, we've been putting a lot of good efforts up and put a lot of good stuff on tape, just having find a way to finish games. Today, that's what we did really all three phases. Offense, defense, special teams making plays near the end of the game to make sure we came on with the win."
Cold weather conditions and rolling blackouts in the Nashville area caused a one-hour delay to the Texans-Titans Week 16 game at Nissan Stadium.
Both Mills and Jeff Driskel rotated at quarterback. Mills completed 17-of-28 for 178 yards, one touchdown, one interception. Driskel completed 3-of-4 passes for 40 yards. Houston only rushed for 70 net yards, led by Royce Freeman who had 16 carries for 32 yards.
"Offensively, we were going to work the two quarterbacks," Head Coach Lovie Smith said. "You know, the plan was to run the football a little bit more, but they're one of the best run defenses in football. So we leaned on the pass and, pass-wise, I thought Davis threw some good balls."
Houston's defense forced three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble), four sacks and five quarterback hits in the win. Rookie Jalen Pitre finished with a team-high nine tackles (seven solo), one interception and pass defensed. DL Ogbo Okoronkwo had 2.0 sacks, two quarterback hits and three tackles for loss.
"I'm going to go back the three takeaways we had, those are rookies," Smith said. "So it just takes a little bit of time to get it right. And I'm going to say this again, but if you're looking at that football team right now, they've gotten some things right."
Malik Willis completed 14-of-23 passes for just 99 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 34.5 passer rating. Derek Henry rushed for 126 yards on 23 carries and scored one rushing touchdown. Each scored on a rushing touchdown for the Titans.
The Texans took 10-7 lead by the second quarter. After a 48-yard touchdown run by Henry, Houston scored on fumble recovery in the endzone. Davis Mills scrambled and the ball, punched out by Titans OLB Denico Autry, was recovered by RB Rex Burkhead for Houston's first score of the game. Ka'imi Fairbairn added a 25-yard field goal on the next possession.
After a failed fourth-and-1 conversion at the Tennessee 47-yard line, the Texans turned their first possession of the second half over on downs. Willis scored on a 14-yard touchdown run to give the Titans a 14-10 lead in the third quarter. Mills threw a pass, intended for Brandin Cooks, but it was tipped and recovered by the Titans. The Texans defense came up with a fourth-down stop on Willis and the offense.
Houston's defense three takeaways and three-and-out in the final quarter of the game.
Houston capitalized on a fourth-quarter fumble by Henry, recovered by Jonathan Greenard, and added a field goal. Mills threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks on the next series to cap off a five-play, 73-yard scoring drive. Amari Rodgers caught a deep 37-yard pass from Mills to get Houston into first-and-goal territory. The Texans went for two but were unsuccessful, leading 19-14 with 2:52 left in the game.
The Titans would get two more possessions, but a pair of Texans rookies ended both drives by intercepting Willis, first LB Christian Harris and then Pitre on a Hail-Mary pass to end the game.
With the win, the Texans are now 2-12-1 on the season and 2-1-1 in the AFC South with both remaining games against division opponents.
"We've been close the past couple of weeks, got it today," Mills said. "And I mean, really excited for these next two games to close out the season. Our guys are ready and we're excited to get back home in front of our fans with Jacksonville."
Houston will host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Jan. 1 for the final home game of the 2022 regular season.
Browse photos from the Texans, Titans Week 16 matchup.