5 takeaways from the Tennessee Titans win over the Houston Texans

Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean)
Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean) /

The Tennessee Titans dominated the Houston Texans to earn their 5th straight win in a dominating, obliterating, total dismantling of an AFC South opponent.

It was an interesting week for the Tennessee Titans since Malik Willis made his first start in place of the injured and ill Ryan Tannehill.

While the passing game was irrelevant (more on that later) it certainly told us some important things about the present and the future of this Tennessee Titans team.

1. Malik Willis is not ready for NFL football…yet

His decision-making and anticipation were too slow and it affected every other facet of his game, including his rushing ability which I would point to as the only real disappointment of the afternoon.

This was no more evident than when he inexplicably threw the ball away on a 2nd and 2 when there was no defender within 5 yards of him and plenty of green grass ahead. This was the most damning instance of his unreadiness since the one thing that Malik should be able to count on is his athleticism.

Malik Willis looked frantic in the pocket and while it certainly wasn’t perfect protection, he looked overwhelmed. The good news is that many rookies look that way in their first starts.

Malik is not ready and that is okay. If you came away from that game disappointed or disparaging his future ability, your expectations were too high buddy.

While he did not make the most of his opportunity we have to understand his day in the context of what the Titans are: They are a running football team with the best running back in the league, and they are a team with no real difference makers at receiver, and they are a team that has struggled to pass block for two seasons running.

So, no, Malik did not play well, but it is not an offense set up for a 3rd round rookie to have success in (heck, it isn’t even designed for a 10-year veteran quarterback to have passing success in).

2. Derrick Henry owns the Houston Texans

Another game, another 200 yards against the Texans for Derrick Henry. Yesterday would have been a career day for 98% of NFL running backs. Except Henry has done it 4 straight times against the Texans. Henry has beaten the breaks off the Texans so many times that he is legally the Mayor of Houston.

Unfortunately for the poor Texans’ fans who are already wearing bags over their heads at games, they have to play Henry once more this season on Christmas eve which is possibly the worst gift any opposing defense could receive during the holidays.

Derrick Henry out-rushed the entire Houston offense on the day: 219 rushing yards for Henry vs 161 total yards for Houston. Oof.

This was total domination by Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans offensive line, but they cannot rest on their laurels because Kansas City has one of the better-run defenses in the league.

Enough of the offense, let’s talk about the Tennessee Titans’ defense and special teams.

3. Jeffery Simmons is the best player in the league at his position. (yes, including Aaron Donald)

It is time to pay the man. Simmons leads the team in sacks and appears to be everywhere at once when he’s on the field.

Any fears over an ankle injury are soundly put to bed. Simmons and the rest of the defensive line terrorized Davis Mills and stuffed Dameon Pierce over and over again on Sunday. According to the broadcast, Malik Willis went over to them after his interception and personally thanked each member of the line after they held the Texans to a field goal.

They gave their rookie quarterback a lot to be thankful for and Patrick Mahomes will not be looking forward to seeing this group next week.

4. Ryan Stonehouse is improving quickly

Yall mind if I talk about our punter for a second?

There was a period of time in the first half of the game when special teams were stealing the show. It is a good thing then that the Titans have statistically one of the best players in the league.

To better understand his impact on the game, we have to imagine the punter’s success as an extension of the Tennesse Titans success on defense. Like in weeks past, Ryan Stonehouse was flipping the field and acting as the first barrier Houston’s offense encountered before facing the likes of Jeffery Simmons, Bud Dupree, and company.

Ryan Stonehouse had 5 punts in the game and landed 4 inside the Houston 20-yard line, which is an incredible development for the rookie. We knew his leg could launch balls into the stratosphere, but now he is dropping them inside the 10-yard line consistently.

Man, this guy is good. He is quickly becoming the face of punting in the league (if there is such a thing.

5. David Long is playing out of his mind right now.

David Long Jr. is rolling at the moment. He is coming off his back-to-back interceptions in the games against the Washington Commanders and the Indianapolis Colts and he had a great performance against one of the emerging running backs in the league this week.

He led the team in tackles against Houston with 8, including 6 solo tackles. He also had 2 tackles for loss which was tied with Jeff Simmons as the most TFLs on the day in total team domination of the Texans.

David Long is the unsung hero in the Tennessee Titans’ defense. He has held the unit down despite a wave of injuries that limited the linebacker unit early in the season and has solidified himself as a leader on defense.

Despite being “undersized” Long is a willing tackler who is unafraid of contact (unsurprising given his father was a heavyweight boxer). This season, He leads the team in tackles and interceptions and he is second in passes defended. He is doing it all and continues to be an anchor for one of the best defenses in the league.