HOUSTON — Titans tight end Jonnu Smith had just slipped out of a chip block, Marcus Mariota finding his streaking target four yards up the middle, and open field ahead.
Smith secured his grip on the dart from Mariota, racing 57 more yards until he found himself dragging Houston safety Tyran Mathieu into the end zone.
Titans 10, Texans 0.
Demaryius Thomas glanced at his teammates on the sideline. The receiver whom Denver traded to Houston on Oct. 30 marveled.
“Everyone was calm,” Thomas said after Houston’s 38-17 win. “Nobody pointed fingers. We just knew what we had to do to make it better.”
That penchant for accountability over blame has caught Thomas’ eyes the last four weeks. Teammates step up. They adjust smoothly, “stay cool and do their job,” he said.
The list of Texans who did their job Monday night stretches long.
Thomas’ name was among the top.
He was the first to put Houston on the board, in the first quarter of his first home game, with his first career touchdown as a Texan. He found the end zone again in the fourth quarter, breaking quickly on another out route to the right sideline. In between, running back Lamar Miller rushed for the longest score in Texans history (97 yards) and the longest in the league since 2014 when, again, Miller pulled off the feat.
Don’t count receiver DeAndre Hopkins surprised.
“Demaryius coming in and having two touchdowns in his home opener was great,” said Hopkins, who caught five catches for a game-high 74 receiving yards. “We expect that out of him.
“Lamar, he'd been due for a big game like that. All he needed was a little crease to break away.”
Miller’s found that crease from the Texans’ own 3-yard line, where Houston’s shutdown defense halted Tennessee’s fourth-and-1 end-zone attempt to force a turnover on downs. Suddenly, a ball so close to Tennessee’s end zone was gone, a 14-point swing differential.
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