Texans face Titans, go for franchise-record 8th straight win
HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans have matched a franchise record for most consecutive wins and are the first team since the 1925 New York Giants to win seven straight games after opening a season 0-3.
Despite this impressive streak, they’re far from satisfied and know they’ll have to continue to improve to get their eighth win in a row when they host the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.
“We understand that it’s going to be tough each and every week, and we understand that all 31 other teams don’t really care what we’ve done in the past,” Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson said. “It’s about what we do this week. We don’t believe in the hype. We just grind and go out there and prepare and try to play our hardest to get a win.”
Coach Bill O’Brien agreed with Watson and said he stresses to his players that things could go downhill quickly if they focus on what they’ve already done instead of worrying about their next opponent.
“You’re always looking to improve. No doubt about it,” he said. “I think that’s what the league’s all about. Who can get better the fastest, who can be the team that improves the fastest as the year goes on? I think every game there’s going to be chances for improvement, and we definitely have to improve.”
The Texans, who lost to Tennessee in Week 2, have a two-game lead in the AFC South over the Titans and Colts, who are both 5-5.
Houston beat the Redskins 23-21 last week for its second straight two-point win after downing the Broncos 19-17 on Nov. 4 before its bye. The Titans have had an up-and-down two weeks after beating New England 34-10 on Nov. 11 before Indianapolis routed them 38-10 last week.
“The Houston Texans are a true example of handling adversity and moving forward. They lost 3 in a row early on, everybody thought their season was over and all of a sudden they’re on top of the division and might be fighting for a bye depending on where they’re going,” Tennessee linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “They’re on our schedule now. We lost one, chance to redeem ourselves.”
Some things to know about Tennessee’s Monday night visit to Houston:
PROTECT THE QB
Marcus Mariota was sacked four times in the first half alone before being knocked out of the game last week just before halftime with a stinger. Now the Titans face the Texans with Houston defensive end Jadeveon Clowney healthy instead of watching from the sideline as Clowney did in Week 2 when these teams met.
Mariota and the Titans hope the quarterback will be available Monday night, though he’s waiting for a nerve in his throwing arm to settle down.
If Mariota doesn’t start, that would mean Blaine Gabbert gets his third start this season and second against the Texans.
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas hasn’t made much of an impact since being traded to the Texans from Denver on Oct. 30 after Will Fuller suffered a season-ending knee injury. The nine-year veteran had three receptions for 61 yards in his debut, but didn’t have a catch on two targets on Sunday. O’Brien took the blame for his limited work.
“It’s not Demaryius,” O’Brien said. “I have to do a better job of getting him more involved. He’s working hard, he’s a good pro and we need to do a better job of getting him the ball a little more.”
Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees rejoined the team Tuesday after leaving the team’s last game with a medical issue. Coach Mike Vrabel is trying to limit the 69-year-old coach’s hours at the team headquarters in Pees’ return to work.
Having Pees available and calling blitzes and coverages from the coach’s box in Houston could provide a nice boost to a defense that was dissected by Andrew Luck last week. The Titans allowed a season-high 38 points, dropping from the NFL’s top scoring defense to second overall.
Orakpo said hearing Pees had been taken to a hospital shook the Titans.
“Man, that was definitely a scary scene to be a part of,” Orakpo said.
WATT AND CLOWNEY
Clowney and J.J. Watt have combined to be one of the league’s most feared defensive duos this season. Clowney has 12 tackles for losses, 14 quarterback hits, 6 1/2 sacks and two fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown. Watt has 10 sacks, 12 tackles for losses, 17 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles and has swatted down two passes.
Vrabel is very familiar with Clowney and Watt after working as an assistant with the Texans from 2014-17. But he rarely had both players on the field at the same time when he coached in Houston because of various injuries to the two players. He was asked if he’s happy to see that they’re finally both healthy and playing so well this season.
“I think 14 games out of the year, I’d probably feel pretty good for them, but there will be two of them when I don’t,” Vrabel said. “They’re good people. I thought I had a good relationship with both of those guys.”
AP Pro Football Writer Teresa Walker contributed to this report.