NASHVILLE, Tenn. >> DaQuan Jones recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter, and the Tennessee Titans never trailed in beating the Houston Texans 24-17 Sunday to finish with their first winning season since 2011.
The Titans (9-7) also ended a five-game skid to the two-time AFC South champs, who had beaten Tennessee eight of the previous nine games in this series. With their six-win improvement from going 3-13 in 2015, the Titans matched the biggest one-year turnaround in franchise history, previously set in 1967 and 1974.
Matt Cassel also threw for a touchdown in his first start this season in place of an injured Marcus Mariota, and Derrick Henry ran for a TD. Rishard Matthews caught nine passes for 114 yards, and Pro Bowl lineman Jurrell Casey had two of Tennessee’s four sacks.
The Texans (9-7) had little at stake except sweeping the AFC South for the first time in franchise history. Hosting a wild-card game next weekend, the Texans deactivated six starters before kickoff and had just one starter still in on defense by midway through the third quarter. Undrafted rookie Joel Heath had two of the Texans’ four sacks.
Quarterback Tom Savage, who started , left in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion and was cleared. He took a snap to kneel down on the final play of the first half and was diagnosed with a concussion after being re-evaluated at halftime.
That left Brock Osweiler running the offense. He threw for 253 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a 1-yard TD on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter.
The Texans had one final chance to tie, getting the ball with 53 seconds left. Osweiler was sacked and threw incomplete on fourth down as Tennessee held on.
MISSING IN ACTION
The Texans scratched six starters, with running back Lamar Miller missing his second straight game. Fullback Jay Prosch also was deactivated. On defense, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, linebackers John Simon and Brian Cushing and cornerback Johnathan Joseph also did not dress. That didn’t stop Houston coach Bill O’Brien for going for it on fourth down six times and trying an onside kick in the third quarter that Tennessee recovered.
DeMarco Murray came into the regular-season finale trailing Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell by two yards for the most yards rushing in the AFC. Pittsburgh rested Bell for the playoffs. Murray struggled to find running room against Houston, which has allowed an NFL-stingiest 68 yards rushing per game since Week 8. Murray finished with 21 yards on 11 for his worst performance this season.
Texans: Hosting an AFC wild-card game against either Kansas City or Oakland.
Titans: A busy offseason featuring two first-round draft picks and lots of salary cap space to accelerate rebuilding.