HOUSTON — Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans ran their way into the playoffs, beating a Houston Texans team that rested several starters and setting up an intriguing first-round matchup with New England.
Henry rushed for a season-high 211 yards and three touchdowns in the Titans’ 35-14 victory on Sunday. The Texans beat the Titans two weeks ago to take control of the AFC South and locked up the division last week, allowing Houston to sit quarterback Deshaun Watson and other key players.
Tennessee got its first win at Houston since Jan. 1, 2012. The Titans, who will visit the Patriots next weekend, are in the postseason for the second time in three seasons and the first under coach Mike Vrabel, who played for New England for eight seasons.
Watson was active on Sunday, but coach Bill O’Brien started AJ McCarron instead. Watson was listed as questionable with a back injury this week but said he was OK. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins was also active, but did not play and several starters, including receiver Kenny Stills, left tackle Laremy Tunsil and nose tackle D.J. Reader, were inactive.
McCarron threw for 225 yards with an interception and ran for a touchdown.
Houston was already locked into the AFC’s fourth seed and will host Buffalo next week.
Tennessee was up by seven at halftime and extended the lead when Henry scored on a 3-yard run with 10:06 left in the third quarter. Henry returned after sitting out last week with a hamstring injury.
Houston then used almost nine minutes on a 16-play drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by McCarron. He evaded the rush and dived into the end zone for the score that cut the lead to 21-14.
Tennessee made it 28-14 when Henry scored on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter. That touchdown was set up when Brown grabbed a nifty 47-yard reception between two defenders just before falling out of bounds.
The Titans padded the lead when Henry rumbled 53 yards for a touchdown with 2:54 left. He finished the season with a career-high 1,540 yards rushing, which leads the NFL, and 16 touchdowns — tied with Green Bay’s Aaron Jones for the league lead.
Henry became the third player in franchise history to run for 15 or more touchdowns in a season, joining Earl Campbell (19 in 1979) and LenDale White (15 in 2008).
The Texans scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time all season when Duke Johnson‘s 1-yard run made it 7-0. The Titans tied it when Tannehill threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Brown on their next drive.
Tennessee took a 14-7 lead when MyCole Pruittcapped a 16-play, 90-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
Texans CB Johnathan Joseph injured a hamstring in the first half and didn’t return.
Titans: Tennessee plays at New England next weekend.
Texans: Houston will host Buffalo next weekend.