HOUSTON — Derrick Henry and the defense made sure the Tennessee Titans didn’t need much from quarterback Malik Willis in his first career start.
The Titans won their fifth straight game Sunday, defeating the Houston Texans, 17-10, behind a dominant showing from Henry and a stifling defense that logged eight tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception and held the Texans to 161 total yards.
Henry rushed for 219 yards, a season-high, with two touchdowns. With Henry and spell back Dontrell Hilliard rolling, the Titans (5-2, 3-0 AFC South) barely asked anything of Willis, who attempted only one pass in the second half and finished 6-for-10 with 55 passing yards and an interception.
The Texans offense couldn’t find any success in either phase. Titans defensive linemen Jeffery Simmons, Teair Tart and Bud Dupree combined for eight tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks, and cornerback Kristian Fulton finished with an interception and two pass breakups.
Follow every game: Live NFL Scores
How Malik Willis fared
The offense started slow as Henry took time to get started, and Willis wasn’t able to help much. Willis took a sack on his only dropback on his first possession; the Titans went three-and-out on their second drive; and Willis was intercepted on an errant throw over the middle on his third possession. The rookie, who started for injured quarterback Ryan Tannehill, missed a wide-open receiver down the sideline two plays before Henry’s first touchdown.
Once Henry settled in and the defense proved it could contain the Texans’ offense, the Titans didn’t stress Willis much further. He didn’t throw a pass in the third quarter, and his first attempt in the fourth quarter was a throwaway under pressure. He didn’t even get to test his legs much, as the Texans held the dual-threat quarterback to 13 yards on four carries.
Defense stands up
The Texans’ scored only twice Sunday. The first score came after Willis’ interception set Houston up in scoring position, but the defense still managed to force a three-and-out and push the Texans back 13 yards before allowing the field goal. The second came on a 90-yard scoring drive in the final two minutes of the game, before which the Titans hadn’t allowed 90 yards all game.
It was that kind of day for the Titans defense, which forced eight punts and allowed only 10 first downs. Even with Simmons playing through injury and safety Amani Hooker missing most of the game with a shoulder injury, the Titans had no problem stymying everything the Texans tried to do, holding them to 2-for-14 on third downs and less than 100 yards until after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.
Just give it to Derrick Henry
With his second-quarter touchdown run, Henry tied Eddie George for first place in Titans/Oilers franchise history with 74 career touchdowns. His 29-yard score was one for the highlight reels. He burst through the middle for a first down on third-and-2, cut to his left to evade a safety, turned toward the sideline to outrun three would-be tacklers, deployed a signature stiff arm and hurled his body over the pylon for the score.
His second score, a 1-yard rush in the third quarter, eclipsed George’s record.
Henry’s two longest carries in the first half went for 41 and 29 yards. The Texans gained 35 yards in the first half as a team.
This is the fourth time Henry rushed for 200 or more yards against the Texans and the sixth time he’s done so in a regular season game in his career.
The Titans return to action Sunday in Kansas City for a ‘Sunday Night Football’ game against the Chiefs. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:20 p.m., and the game will be televised on NBC.
Contact Nick Suss at email@example.com. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.