NASHVILLE– The Texans beat the Tennessee Titans 24-10 at LP Field in Nashville on Sunday, improving to 11-1 and clinching a playoff berth for the second consecutive season.
The Texans' defense was battered by injuries but led the way with a franchise-record six turnovers and a season-high six sacks. They did so without three injured cornerbacks and two injured starting linebackers.
"Boy, we battled all day," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We played great defense all day long.
"Just proud of the guys for finding a way to get it done. Very proud of them finding a way to get in the playoffs, and happy for everybody back home. Nice to know we're gonna play some more."
Defensive end J.J. Watt had one sack, one forced fumble and two passes defensed, one of which was intercepted. Free safety Glover Quin and inside linebackers Tim Dobbins and Darryl Sharpton all had interceptions. Dobbins, defensive end Antonio Smith and rookie outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus all recovered fumbles. Mercilus also had two sacks in his first-career start.
"I think the defense played great," Watt said. "Obviously, we've had some struggles the last two weeks, but today is what we're used to and how we're used to playing -- the turnovers, the momentum swings, the big plays. That's our defense… Everyone makes plays. It's not just one or two guys, it's every single player."
Texans wide receiver Lestar Jean opened up the scoring with a 54-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter on the Texans' first drive. It was the first-career touchdown for Jean, who was undrafted out of Florida Atlantic in 2011.
"I was excited," Jean said. "It's always exciting to get in the end zone. I was just going out there and whenever Coach put me in, just doing whatever they asked me to do."
The Titans answered with a 37-yard field goal by Rob Bironas to make the score 7-3. The Texans went up 14-3 late in the first quarter on a five-yard touchdown catch by fullback James Casey, one play after converting on fourth-and-one from the 11-yard line with a six-yard run by Arian Foster.
"It's one of the best feelings in the world to get in the end zone and score a touchdown in the NFL," said Casey, who now has three receiving touchdowns this season. "It was a good play design by our offensive coaches, and Matt (Schaub) got me the ball and it just felt good to get in."
The Texans led 21-3 at halftime after an interception by Dobbins deep in Titans territory set up Foster for a two-yard touchdown run. Dobbins had a big game in his hometown of Nashville, tallying three tackles, an interception, a pass defensed, a fumble recovery and two special teams tackles.
Kicker Shayne Graham nailed a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter to make it 24-3. The Titans made it 24-10 late in the third quarter on a 34-yard touchdown catch by Kenny Britt from quarterback Jake Locker, but they would get no closer than that. The Texans forced a turnover on downs on back-to-back series in the fourth quarter before Sharpton picked off Titans quarterback Jake Locker with about two minutes remaining to ice the game.
Locker finished the game with a 49.2 passer rating. He was 21-of-45 for 309 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown. Schaub, who has now won 15 of his last 16 starts, was 21-of-35 for 207 yards and two touchdowns. He was not sacked and not intercepted. Running back Justin Forsett led the Texans with 64 rushing yards on 14 carries (4.6 average).
The Texans lost cornerback Brice McCain to a foot injury in the first half. He did not return. Because Johnathan Joseph was already out with a hamstring injury, that left the Texans with three healthy cornerbacks in Kareem Jackson and second-year players Brandon Harris and Roc Carmichael. The Texans also used a rotation of Sharpton, Dobbins and Barrett Ruud at inside linebacker with starter Bradie James out with an injury.
"It's funny how things work in football," Kubiak said. "I just told the team, you come in here missing some key defensive players and you think you have got to play really well offensively, and we turn around and may have played as good of a defensive game as we have played this year. That just tells you you're a team, that you don't really care how you win or you don't have a preconceived notion of how you are going to win. You just go out and play.
"They were exceptional today; six turnovers and six sacks. The coaches did a great job. You look at the job (defensive backs coach) Vance (Joseph) did and (linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring) did this week getting some young guys ready to play, it was exceptional."
Left tackle Duane Brown left the game with an apparent knee injury in the first half but returned after three plays. Tight end Garrett Graham left the game in the first half with a concussion.
Up next for the Texans is a Week 14 showdown with the New England Patriots (9-3) on Monday Night Football in Foxboro.