The Texans came to Nashville needing to retake sole possession of the top spot in the division. To do it, they'd have to knock off a hot team in their home den.
In a game that saw more twists and turns than a Netflix thriller, the Texans fought their way to a 24-21 victory that sets them up for a clinching possibility next weekend at Tampa.
Things started well with a drive to the red zone but a Titans pick put the brakes on the march. Tennessee drove into Houston territory before Angelo Blackson blocked a field goal, reshuffling the deck at zero-zero.
Another Tennessee drive was short-circuited by a Whitney Mercilus interception return, aided by a Justin Reid hit on the intended receiver. The ball bounced, Whitney picked it and ran down the sideline to set up Houston at the Titans 12-yard line where Deshaun Watson would hit Kenny Stills on the first of two TD hook-ups on the day.
A 14-0 halftime lead was cut in half by Tennessee's opening 3rd quarter drive. It consumed almost nine and a half minutes and let everyone know that it was going to be a close ballgame.
After the Texans got picked again, off a deflection this time, the Titans put together an equalizing touchdown drive, forcing a response. Well, Houston went on the march with a 75-yard clutch drive that included big plays to all-world wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Carlos Hyde capped it with a 10-yard TD run.
The Texans added a field goal to stretch the lead to 10 before the Titans would answer with a touchdown. Houston hung on to an onside kick and hung on to the three point lead into the finish.
This was a hard-fought game against a good football team that had been on a roll. Like the Texans have done several times this season, they rose up in the 4th quarter and made clutch plays with the game on the line. The Titans had stolen the momentum with 14 unanswered points but Houston took it right back.
In two weeks, these two squads meet again but a Texans win at Tampa Bay will make the game irrelevant to the AFC South race. The Titans can also be knocked out of the division chase with a loss at home to New Orleans next week.
The Texans have earned the chance to punch their postseason ticket. Beating Tampa Bay will be no picnic. The Bucs have a shot at a winning season and are lighting up the scoreboard. It's another big game and not a lot of time to get ready for it.