NFL, Houston Texans, Bill O'Brien

With playoffs looming, Texans rest starters in regular season finale

By BILL McCAUGHEY, Special to the Times
Posted 12/29/19

The Texans lost to AFC South rival Tennessee, 35-14, on Sunday, Dec. 29, at NRG Stadium in a meaningless contest for the home team.

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NFL, Houston Texans, Bill O'Brien

With playoffs looming, Texans rest starters in regular season finale

Posted

The Texans lost to AFC South rival Tennessee, 35-14, on Sunday, Dec. 29, at NRG Stadium in a meaningless contest for the home team.

With the Texans’ playoff status locked in as the fourth seed in the AFC after clinching their fourth AFC South title in the last five years last week, coach Bill O’Brien rested his three Pro Bowlers (quarterback Deshaun Watson, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and left tackle Laremy Tunsil), along with nose tackle D.J. Reader, linebacker Whitney Mercilus and cornerback Bradley Roby.

Meanwhile, the Titans were motivated to win as they needed a victory to make the playoffs as the sixth seed.

On the Texans’ first series, backup quarterback A.J. McCarron directed the team on a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, with running back Duke Johnson scoring on a 1-yard run, to give the Texans a 7-0 lead.

After that, however, it was all quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Derrick Henry and receiver AJ Brown as the Titans dominated the Texans.

The Titans quickly responded to Johnson’s score with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Brown. The Titans then scored on a Michael Pruitt 1-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill and a Henry 3-yard run before McCarron scored on a 1-yard run, cutting Houston’s deficit to 21-14 with 1:16 left in the third quarter.

But Henry, who rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns to take the league’s rushing title, scored on runs of 1 and 53 yards, respectively, in the fourth quarter.

Tannehill completed 13 of 20 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Brown caught four passes for 124 yards and a touchdown.

For the Texans, McCarron completed 21 of 36 passes for 225 yards and rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown. DeAndre Carter had 65 yards on six catches. Taiwan Jones had 40 yards on nine carries.

“I was looking for guys to go out there and compete at a high level,” O’Brien said. “We made some good plays, but not nearly enough. I appreciate the guys who played and gave a good effort. We just didn’t do enough to win.”

The Texans (10-6) play the Buffalo Bills (10-6) on Saturday, Jan. 4, at NRG Stadium in the wild card round of the playoffs. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:35 p.m. on ESPN and ABC. The Bills are the NFL’s third-best total defense going up against the 13th-best total offense in the Texans.

The Bills and Texans had four common opponents this season. The Bills lost to the New England Patriots twice, 16-10 and 24-17, while the Texans beat the Patriots, 28-22. The Bills beat the Tennessee Titans, 14-7, and the Texans split with the Titans, winning 24-21 at Tennessee and losing 35-14 at home.

The Bills beat the Denver Broncos, 20-3, while the Broncos beat the Texans, 38-24, and the Baltimore Ravens beat both the Bills, 24-17, and the Texans, 41-7.

“We need to put everything else in our lives in the drawer this week and concentrate on the playoffs,” O’Brien said. “Buffalo is a tough team. They work really hard. We just need to limit our mistakes. We have a good football team that is excited about the playoffs.”

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