Titans clinch AFC South title on Derrick Henry's 2,000-yard season, Sam Sloman's field goal
HOUSTON — The Titans are finally back on top in the AFC South.
They clinched the division title and a home playoff game with a 41-38 win over the Texans in the regular-season finale on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
It’s the Titans’ first AFC South title since 2008. During that drought, the Texans (6), Colts (4) and Jaguars (1) won 11 division titles.
All that occurred after Derrick Henry rushed for 250 yards, becoming the eighth player in NFL history to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a season. He finished the regular season with 2,027 yards, the fifth-most in NFL history.
The Titans (11-5) will face the Ravens (11-5) at Nissan Stadium in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs on Sunday (noon, ABC and ESPN).
Here are five observations from the Titans' thrilling win over the Texans (4-12) to wrap up the regular season:
Derrick Henry made a lot of history
Henry joined Eric Dickerson (2,105), Adrian Peterson (2,097), Jamal Lewis (2,066), Barry Sanders (2,053), Terrell Davis (2,008), Chris Johnson (2,006) and O.J. Simpson (2,003) as players to have reached 2,000 yards in a season.
The Titans now have two players on that list, as Johnson hit the mark in 2009.
Henry got to 2,000 yards with his third 200-yard rushing game this season. He is only the fifth player to accomplish that feat, joining Earl Campbell (four in 1980), Simpson (1973), Tiki Barber (2005) and Jay Ajayi (2016).
Henry also became the sixth player since 1948 to rush for at least 1,000 yards on the road in a season, joining some all-time greats.
The list includes Jim Brown (1963), Simpson (1975), Dickerson (1984), Gerald Riggs (1985), Sanders (1997) and Peterson (2012).
Henry also moved into second place behind Campbell in single-season rushing touchdowns in franchise history. He has 17 this season, while Campbell scored 19 in 1979.
Sam Sloman was good in a small dose
Sloman passed his audition as the Titans’ temporary kicker, a job he might keep for the first-round playoff game. Sloman was elevated from the practice squad to fill in for Gostkowski, who was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list on Monday.
The Titans have not indicated how long Gostkowski will be out of the lineup. But Sloman looked like a strong option, if needed in the playoffs. Sloman made a 47-yard field goal early in the game, the 37-yard game-winner and five extra-point tries.
Sloman was selected by the Rams in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He appeared in seven games for the Rams this season, making eight of 11 field goals and 18 of 21 extra points.
Titans couldn't stop the Texans
Give the Titans defense credit for notching three sacks in the first half. But it still finished the regular season with only 19 sacks, tied for fewest by a playoff team in NFL history. And don’t overlook that the defense made consecutive stands in the red zone to hold the Texans to three field goals in the first half.
But it was also fooled by a flea-flicker, failed on most pass rushes and gave up points on seven consecutive possessions. The Texans scored three straight field goals and then four straight touchdowns.
While the Titans are potent on offense, they still look very vulnerable on defense heading into the playoffs.
Ryan Tannehill caught Warren Moon
Tannehill reached Warren Moon, a quarterback icon in Titans/Oilers history. He tied Moon for second place in single-season touchdown passes in franchise history.
Tannehill tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brown in the second quarter for his 33rd score this season, equaling Moon’s mark in 1990. Tannehill trails only George Blanda’s 36 touchdown passes in 1961 for the franchise record. Tannehill has now thrown a touchdown pass in 13 consecutive games.
Tannehill also moved into third place on the franchise’s single-season list for passing yards. He passed Moon’s mark of 3,631 yards in 1989. But Tannehill still trails two other massive totals by Moon of 4,689 in 1990 and 4,690 yards in 1991 in the Oilers’ prolific run-and-shoot passing offense.
A.J. Brown joined Jerry Rice, Randy Moss
Brown became the ninth player in NFL history to record at least 2,000 receiving yards and 18 touchdown receptions in his first two seasons.
The list includes Jerry Rice (49ers, 1985-86), Randy Moss (Vikings, 1998-99), Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals, 2004-05), Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants, 2014-15), A.J. Green (Bengals, 2011-12), Julio Jones (Falcons, 2011-12), Marques Colston (Saints, 2006-07) and John Jefferson (Chargers, 1978-79).
Brown scored his 11th touchdown this season, tying Drew Bennett’s mark from 2004 as the most in a season in the franchise’s Titans era, which began in 1999.
Brown also became the 11th player in NFL history to reach 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons. He had 1,051 yards as a rookie in 2019, and he reached the 1,000-yard mark again this season. Bill Groman (1960-61) is the only other players in Titans/Oilers franchise history to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
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