“I expect everybody to be back and I expect us to get better in everything that we’re doing,” Culley said. “Not just the run game, but our pass game, get better on defense and our special teams."
The Texans had one of their strongest second halves of the entire 2021-22 season in the second half against the Titans on Sunday.
Down three scores at halftime, the Texans mounted a second half comeback, trimming the titans lead to three points two different times behind a terrific half of football from Davis Mills.
“Over the course of the season, I feel like I’ve gotten better and better and better and more comfortable out there,” Mills said. “That’s the big thing is being comfortable in the offense and being able to play fast. I feel like I did that, especially in the second half today. But a lot of guys on our team played really well today as well.”
But that comeback wasn’t enough, as the Texans fell 28-25 to the Titans, giving Tennessee the No. 1 seed in the AFC and sending the Texans to the offseason with a 4-13 record.
“We knew what we were in for today, the Titans are a very good football team,” said Texans head coach David Culley. ”This football team has always played hard, we haven’t always played smart but we’ve played hard and today I think we played hard and smart. Penalties were down, we just had a tough start in the first half.”
Mills finished the game with 301 yards passing and three touchdowns, 240 of those yards and all three touchdowns came in the second half, once the Texans committed to throwing the ball and going with a more up-tempo pace.
The Texans gained two first downs on their opening drive, taking the ball to midfield before being forced to punt. After the Houston defense forced a 3-and-out on the Titans first drive, the Texans got the ball back at the Titans 45 but were unable to get anything out of it.
The Titans settled in from there and on their second drive get four first downs but failed to score when Randy Bullock missed a 42-yard field goal, but the Texans once again failed to do anything with it.
Tennessee finally made Houston pay on its first drive of the second quarter, as they went 94 yards on 11 plays and scored a touchdown on a five-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill to Anthony Firkser to take the lead. The Titans added on to it on their next drive, going nine plays on 85 yards and making things a two-possession game with two minutes left in the half on a 14-yard pass from Tannehill to Brown. The Texans tried to run a two-minute offense but left plenty of time on the clock for the Titans who added a third score on a four-yard pass from Tannehill to Nick Westbrook-Ikine.
The Texans had just 70 yards of offense in the first half, leading to the need for a second half comeback.
“We just felt like at halftime we needed to switch up some things,” Mills said. ”We started the second half fast and decided that we were going to do some tempo and we were able to come out, get up on the ball and make the defense declare to what they were going to do and then we could call the play after that. Obviously, that worked for us.”
After averaging just over one yard per carry in the first half, the Texans committed to the pass in the second half and it worked. After a 3-and-out from the Titans to start the second half, Houston put together an eight-play drive and drove 72 yards, scoring on a 28-yard flea flicker pass from Davis Mills to Chris Moore to make things a two-possession game. The Texans trimmed the lead again on a 31 yard field goal from Ka’imi Fairbairn and made things a three point game early in the fourth after scoring on a 7-yard pass from Mills to Danny Amendola and getting a two-point conversion from the same duo to cap off a 8-play 82 yard drive.
“He’s coming along, and he’s a great quarterback,” Amendola said. ”He’s going to be a good player here for a long time. He can spin it and he’s getting all the operation down and he’s just a great teammate and I’m rooting for him.”
The Titans finally answered back with their first points of the second half on a 3-yard pass from Tannehill to Julio Jones, ending, ending an eight play, 75-yard drive with a score and going up by 10 with seven minutes remaining.
The Texans responded, going 75 yards in three minutes and making it a three-point game again on a 26-yard touchdown from Mills to Amendola. But the Titans were able to gain three first downs and ice the game from there.
Culley said he expects to return as head coach for a second season and would also like to keep his entire staff in place for next year, including offensive coordinator Tim Kelly.
“I expect everybody to be back and I expect us to get better in everything that we’re doing,” Culley said. “Not just the run game, but our pass game, get better on defense and our special teams. I look forward to going through that this offseason, self-evaluating ourselves, figuring out what we need to do to get better and moving forward.”
Mills continued to show promise at quarterback and Culley is confident in him leading the team as the starter next season.
“I feel good about him,” I got a question going into halftime about making a change and I was like ‘no we’re not making a change, he’s our quarterback.’” Culley said. “I feel very good about that and obviously the way he played in the second half and how the offense played with him directing it, it just goes to show you that he’s good enough to do what we need to get done here and win football games.”
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