The home team put on a show for their fans.
The Houston Texans hosted the Tennessee Titans in an AFC South edition of “Monday Night Football” to finish off Week 12.
The home team put on a show for their fans, winning their eighth straight game by taking down their rival by the blowout score of 34-17.
These were the biggest winners and losers from the game.
Winner: Deshaun Watson shows off dual-threat skills
What Deshaun Watson does every week, playing behind a pretty porous offensive line, is really something to behold. His ability to scramble is a huge reason why he’s one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league. And we certainly saw plenty of that Monday night. Watson ran for 71 yards and a touchdown on just eight attempts.
But the real reason he’s such an incredible young quarterback is that Watson doesn’t look to run first. Even when he’s scrambling, his eyes are always downfield looking for someone to break open. He shined as a pure passer against Tennessee, completing 19-of-24 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
He’s a remarkable young leader, and he has his team absolutely rolling.
Loser: Titans running backs were mostly invisible
In a game that didn’t get out of hand until late, Tennessee abandoned its strength on offense rather early. Granted, Houston’s defensive line was smothering Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry. But the Titans never made running the ball a point of emphasis.
Lewis ran for just eight yards on seven carries. Henry did a bit better, going for 30 yards on eight carries. But to see these two gain a total of 38 yards on the ground was surprising. It was also a huge reason why the Titans’ offense stalled, despite an incredible night passing for Marcus Mariota.
Winner: Demaryius Thomas becoming a keystone
When the Texans lost Will Fuller, it looked like that injury had the potential to really put a damper on Houston’s explosive offense. However, general manager Brian Gaine made a bold move to trade with Denver for receiver Demaryius Thomas. On Monday night, we saw that decision bear some significant fruit.
Thomas only caught four total passes for 38 yards. But he hauled in two touchdowns, and that’s a huge deal. What this does is that opposing defenses have to really account for him more in the red zone going forward. And with DeAndre Hopkins on the other side, that spells trouble.
Loser: Houston’s secondary had a rough night
Credit goes to Mariota for being razor sharp.
However, it was disconcerting to see Houston’s secondary giving up so many big plays through the air. This is a defense that came into the game allowing just 6.9 yards per passing attempt. Yet Mariota averaged 13.2 yards per attempt and of course completed an astounding 22-of-23 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns.
The Texans need to sharpen things up on the back end. Once the playoffs roll around (assuming they get in) the quarterbacks get so much better, and mistakes are magnified all the more.
Winner: Lamar Miller, have a night!
In a game that featured plenty of highlights, Houston running back Lamar Miller stole the show. The big highlight, of course, was his unbelievable 97-yard touchdown run (watch here) early in the second quarter that really opened the lead up for the Texans.
Miller had already been quite effective before that run, however, going for for 49 yards on five carries. He would finish the night with 167 total yards on 13 touches, sparking a huge win for the Texans and delighting fantasy owners everywhere.
Loser: Tennessee’s offensive line got worked
On the one hand, it’s understandable that Houston’s defensive front had a huge game. After all, this unit is loaded with top-tier talent, starting with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. So, you’d expect nothing less than for these guys to make an impact.
On the other hand, Tennessee’s offensive line is pretty talented, too, and the two offensive tackles are both high first-round picks. Yet on Monday night, the big guys up front on Tennessee’s offense were overwhelmed.
Mariota was sacked six times for 43 yards. Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry struggled to get anything going on the ground. It was just pure domination by the Texans.
Winner: Jonnu Smith, Corey Davis played well in defeat
On the second drive of the game for Tennessee, which jumped out to a three-point lead on the first drive, Smith silenced the crowd at NRG Stadium. On a simple leak out into the middle of the field that appeared innocuous enough at first, he bolted upfield and somehow beat out the entire Texans defense to the end zone on a 61-yard touchdown (watch here).
Second-year former first-round pick Corey Davis has really come alive lately as a legitimate weapon for Mariota. He caught four passes for 96 yards and an incredible 48-yard touchdown, adding another 39 yards on a reverse that completely caught Houston’s defense off guard.
Loser: Two-play sequence doomed Titans
Early in the second quarter, Tennessee had a chance to make it a one-point game or go ahead by three. Faced with a fourth-and-inches at Houston’s three-yard line, Mike Vrabel made the decision to go for it.
Now, that decision by itself is not a bad one. The bad decision was the play call by offensive coordinator Matt LeFleur, who called for tight end Luke Stocker to run a fullback dive right up the gut. Tennessee had dozens of better options than that. The attempt was stuffed, and the next play Lamar Miller put Tennessee up by two scores with his incredible 97-yard touchdown.