The Houston Texans players will be back in the building on Wednesday, following Saturday's 19-14 win in Tennessee. Here are three takeaways from Head Coach Lovie Smith's Monday press conference.
1. O-line update
The Texans offensive line stepped up in Week 16 to block Jeffery Simmons and company, giving up just one sack despite a major reshuffling throughout the game against the Titans.
"We lost some big pieces there during the game and for them to step up and block that defensive line said a lot," Head Coach Lovie Smith said.
The starting o-line came out with Tytus Howard at left guard to replace rookie Kenyon Green, who missed his second game with an ankle injury. By the end of the game, three different players had lined up in that spot. After Howard left to be evaluated for a concussion, second-year OL Jimmy Morrissey entered the game, was banged up and then replaced by Justin McCray.
The good news is that Green could return this week, according to Smith. As for Howard and Morrissey, "both felt really good after the game" but will go through the league's concussion protocol this week.
2. Division spoiler
Houston's win over the Titans knocked Tennessee out as sole division leader in the AFC South. Now the Texans have a chance repeat the favor with the Jaguars, tied with the Titans with a 7-8 record but holding the top spot because of the head-to-head win in Week 14.
After their Week 16 win, the Texans' record in the division improved to 2-1-1. With their remaining two games against Jacksonville and Indianapolis, the Texans want to keep their AFC South momentum going.
"This is a team that could represent our division that we're getting a chance to play," Smith said. "To finish up the season like that is big, so I know the guys are going to be pumped up. Also, we haven't won at home yet. Getting an opportunity to finish it up the right way in front of our home crowd that's really been patient with us, they deserve to see a good showing."
3. Game balls?
The Texans had a number of standout performances in all three phases Saturday. Smith rattled off the names of rookies, veteran, offensive, defensive players, from LB Blake Cashman, DLs Maliek Collins and Jerry Hughes to the offensive line. After snapping a nine-game losing streak, Smith plans to bring back a victory tradition this week.
"We give out game balls," Smith said. "We had to get back to that routine and look again at what the qualifications were, it's been a while since we've given out one. Yes, we give out one offensive, one defensive and one special teams game ball. You're probably going to ask me who it is, but we haven't told them yet so we'll wait for them first."
The Texans will host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Jan. 1. Kickoff from NRG Stadium is set for noon CT on CBS and SportsRadio 610.
Tap to browse tickets for the Houston Texans final home game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars here.
Browse photos from the Texans, Titans Week 16 matchup.