NFL Week 16: Texans 34, Titans 6 — 4 Winners, 4 Losers
Cushing, Watt & Mercilus
There was a time when a game between the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans would invoke vitriol on both sides, when the game mattered deeply for both teams on every level, when punches would actually, literally be thrown (what up, Cortland?) regardless of record. Some of that was good ol' intra-division hate between two evenly matched teams, and some of it, for Houston fans at least, was bitterness over the Titans being some mutated version of the Oilers, like an old girlfriend you had stolen from you (who's now had plastic surgery gone horribly wrong).
Nowadays, though, when the two teams meet, that level of fire no longer exists. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for six touchdowns on the Titans. J.J. Watt routinely sacks their quarterback, seemingly at will (and now, with one hand). Hell, even when the Texans went 2-14 in 2013, they still managed a split with the Titans.
In short, until Marcus Mariota can stay healthy for a whole season, these Titan games are now a speed bump for the Texans. They're a routine pounding where the Texans inflict three hours of bodily and psychological harm on Nashville's abortion of a team, and then get on the plane and head home, like Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog punching the clock after a day full of Sam bludgeoning the bumbling Ralph after he makes poor attempts at stealing sheep.
Sunday, the Texans wrote the latest chapter in the "top this" book of wins over Tennessee, strolling into Nashville with their fourth starting quarterback of the season, a 32-year-old castoff who hadn't started and won a game in 1,113 days, and obliterated the Titans 34-6. In the process, the Texans moved to within an inch of their third AFC South title in five years.
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Winners and losers yesterday go like this....
4. Brandon Weeden
That castoff quarterback came in for a second week in a row, this time from start to finish, and efficiently moved the offense when it needed moving. Hell, I'll say it — Brandon Weeden made plays! He averaged nearly 13 yards per completion and even improvised a seven-yard run for a touchdown to make the score 17-0 in the second quarter. Weeden did more in four quarters than Matt Cassel has done in any of his games as the Cowboys' starter and it makes you wonder why on earth a team would have kept Cassel over Weeden, unless they were trying to lose games. Weeden is now the sixth different quarterback to start and win a game on O'Brien's watch, an illustrious list after yesterday's games. Here's what I mean...
3. Other former O'Brien-coached quarterbacks
Sunday afternoon, following the NFL scoreboard was like watching an episode of This Is Your Life starring Bill O'Brien. At MetLife Stadium, there was Ryan Fitzpatrick getting the Jets back into the playoff mix with a 26-20 overtime win over the Patriots (more on this in a second). Meanwhile, the only reason the Jets are back inside the playoffs looking out is because Ryan Mallett was leading the Ravens to a win over Pittsburgh. Read that sentence again, it gets no less unbelievable. Finally, Case Keenum went into Seattle and beat the Seahawks, because this day was the most bananas day of all-time for anyone blessed by the touch of O'Brien. Which leads me to this nugget — did you know....
2. Gamblers betting on former O'Brien-coached quarterbacks
.... that if you decided to bet $100 on a four team moneyline parlay of games started by Fitzpatrick (+115), Mallett (+490), Keenum (+525), and Weeden (-200), you'd have won $11,792? Well, you would have, oh ye of little faith!
1. Jon Weeks
I wanted to put J.J. Watt here for his one handed sack, one handed fumble forced, one handed pass defended, or his overall one handed dominance of Zach Mettenberger (or at the very least, this tweet to a hater). I wanted to put DeAndre Hopkins here after another 100+ yard game and a few more highlights for his Pro Bowl reel (or at the very least, his new scarf). But dammit, if there's one Texan we can say has done his job with 100 percent precision and accuracy this season, it's long snapper Jon Weeks. So what better time to recognize perfection than on a Sunday in which Weeks hustled downfield and recovered a fumble on special teams! WEEKS!!
4. Jadeveon Clowney's infrastructure
Up 34-0, the Texans appeared to have emptied a chunk of their bench defensively. A.J. Bouye, Kurtis Drummond, Max Bullough, Christian Covington, all of them were in the game. Oddly, though, so were J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Watt was probably fine since he is made of titanium steel everywhere except his left hand. Keeping Clowney in, though, seemed a tad risky, since various parts of his person seem to be made of Play Dough. Sure enough, Clowney wound up leaving the game with a foot injury, and leaving the stadium in a walking boot. Both Clowney and O'Brien say he's fine, but damn, the Clowney Experience is a harrowing one for a fan.
That is all.
2. Patriots' overtime "strategy"
So the Patriots lost in overtime to the Jets on Sunday by a score of 26-20, as the Jets marched 80 yards down the field on the first and only possession of the overtime period, winning the game on a short touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Eric Decker. That wasn't the big story. The big story was that the Patriots won the coin toss in overtime and CHOSE to give the Jets the ball. At first, it was thought that Pats special teams captain Matthew Slater botched the decision, but after the game Bill Belichick confirmed that it was indeed his decision to give the ball to the Jets and try to "play field position." Feels a little like overthinking considering the greatest QB on the planet is on Belichick's roster, but who am I to question?
1. Zach Mettenberger
Weeden had to wait 1,113 days in between wins as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Mettenberger is at 427 days since his first start (ironically, against the Texans, the infamous "selfie game") and still waiting for his first win. He's 0-9. Oddly enough, four of Mettenberger's nine starts have come against the Texans. That's a lot of tormenting from J.J. Watt!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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