Texans beat Titans on Fairbairn's 54-yard field goal in OT
In the process, the Texans took a step toward possibly ending their playoff drought under first-year coach DeMeco Ryans.
Ka'imi Fairbairn kicked a 54-yard field goal as time expired in overtime and the Texans — with backup Case Keenum at quarterback — rallied from a 13-point deficit to beat the Tennessee Titans 19-16 Sunday.
“Man, we know Kai can kick it, so that’s all we were preaching,” said Texans running back Devin Singletary, whose 34-yard touchdown in OT was wiped out by a holding call. “Just get across midfield. If we can’t get a touchdown, give him a chance. And we gave him a chance and he came through for us.”
Houston (8-6) entered the day one spot outside of the AFC's seven-team playoff field. The Texans kept pace with AFC South rival Indianapolis (8-6), who they visit in the regular-season finale.
The Texans left their standout rookie quarterback in Houston in the concussion protocol. Others missing included top receiver Nico Collins, right tackle George Fant and a pair of defensive starters including end Will Anderson Jr., the No. 3 overall draft pick.
“Of course we miss C.J., we miss Will, we miss Blake," Ryans said. "A lot of guys are out, and our guys didn’t blink. It didn’t matter. Whoever steps on that field, we expect our guys to give their best and that’s what our guys did today.”
This was Keenum's first start since Week 17 of the 2021 season for Cleveland. He filled in for Stroud and shook off an early pick-6 by Elijah Molden and four sacks. Keenum threw for 229 yards and a touchdown. Keenum helped Houston outgain the Titans 340-204.
He also won his third straight start for Houston, counting the final two games of the 2014 season. This is the 35-year-old veteran's second stint with the Texans among the seven NFL teams in his career, and he said he's built for this.
“I’ve been in a lot of situations,” Keenum said. "I’ve been in a lot of systems, been in a lot of different games and God’s made me who I am for this, for moments like this. I’m just trying to make sure that I’m ready when my number’s called. Like I said before, you don’t have to get ready if you stay ready.”
The loss eliminated the Titans (5-9) from playoff contention along with clinching a second straight losing record under coach Mike Vrabel.
“I don’t think we’re ready to discuss that,” Vrabel said.
Titans rookie quarterback Will Levis left with 1:49 left in overtime after being sacked for the seventh time with his left leg caught underneath him in the pile. He didn’t put pressure on the leg as he was helped off initially, then walked off. He was jogging on the sideline after a check in the medical tent.
“It could have been a lot worse, but I think I’ll be all right,” Levis said.
Fairbairn had just missed the last five with an injured quadriceps muscle, and he helped the Texans claw back. He made field goals of 23, 27 and 53 yards as the offense stalled close to the goal line.
Keenum drove the Texans to their lone touchdown with 3:03 left, helping tie it at 16 and force overtime. He found Noah Brown for a 3-yard TD pass.
Singletary ran for 121 yards and nearly finished the game with a 34-yard TD run in the final seconds of overtime. His run was wiped out by a holding call on John Metchie, setting up Fairbairn’s field goal.
The Texans also spoiled a day where the Titans wore their Oilers’ throwbacks against the team that replaced them in Houston. The oil derrick logo team founder Bud Adams brought with him to Tennessee in 1997 was at midfield with that nickname in both end zones and decorating the walls along the field.
Vrabel even wore a cowboy hat in honor of late Oilers coach Bum Phillips. Vrabel wore the hat to the stadium, on the field during pregame warmups and in the tunnel as his Titans ran onto the field before kickoff.
Earl Campbell, the Pro Football Hall of Fame running back with the Oilers and the NFL MVP in 1979, attended and visited pregame with the franchise’s current rushing leader Eddie George and current running back Derrick Henry.
Billy “White Shoes” Johnson was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime.
Texans safety Jimmie Ward left late on the Titans’ opening drive for a concussion evaluation and didn’t return.
Titans cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting never returned after hurting a hip. Titans tight end Trevon Wesco hurt an ankle with 12:01 left and walked straight to the locker room. Starting linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair went down in the fourth quarter but returned.
The Texans hope to get Stroud back when they host Cleveland on Dec. 24.
The Titans finish a two-game home stand hosting Seattle on Dec. 24.
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