The Associated Press
HOUSTON–The Houston Texans wanted to honour their late owner and founder Robert “Bob” McNair, who died last week at age 81.
They knew the perfect way to do that last night was to keep their winning streak going.
Deshaun Watson threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score as the Texans set a franchise record with their eighth-straight victory–a 34-17 triumph over the Tennessee Titans.
“The one thing Mr. McNair wanted was a winner,” J.J. Watt said. “All he wanted was a winner. He wanted to win every week.
“He wanted a team that could win and bring a championship to this city.
“So to be able to win eight-straight and to be able to win tonight for him was good, and we’re going to try to keep doing that for him,” Watt added.
Demaryius Thomas scored his first two touchdowns with Houston and Lamar Miller ran for 162 yards, including a 97-yard TD.
The Texans (8-3) also saluted McNair by wearing decals in the shape of a football with white block letters bearing his initials of “RCM.”
With that tribute on the back of their helmets, they became the first team in NFL history to win eight games in a row after starting 0-3.
They lead the AFC South by two games over Indianapolis.
“We need to try and keep getting better,” said coach Bill O’Brien. “We need to take the mantra that we’re going to improve every day.”
The Texans trailed by 10 early before reeling off 27-straight points.
Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins said there was no panic after the team fell behind in the first quarter.
“We’ve been down 0-3 as a record, so being down 10-0 on the board is nothing to this team,” he noted.
Tennessee (5-6) finally scored again on a 48-yard reception by Corey Davis late in the third quarter, but the second TD by Thomas–this one for 10 yards–made it 34-17 with just over eight minutes left.
Marcus Mariota, who missed the second half of last week’s game with a stinger, was 22-of-23 for 303 yards and two touchdowns.
He completed his first 19 passes before an incompletion with just over a minute to go.
Miller’s 97-yard breakaway in the second quarter made it 21-10. It was the longest run in franchise history and the longest in the NFL since his dash of the same length for a touchdown on Dec. 28, 2014, with the Dolphins.
He’s the only player in league history with two career rushing touchdowns of 95 yards or longer.
The Titans went ahead 3-0 on their first possession, then Jonnu Smith had a career-long 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown that extended their lead less than halfway through the first quarter.
Houston got going after that, cutting the lead to 10-7 when Thomas grabbed his first touchdown since being traded from Denver on Oct. 30–a 12-yard grab with about six minutes left in the quarter.
Watson put the Texans on top when he scrambled 15 yards for a score on the first play of the second quarter.
The Titans went for it on fourth-and-inches from the three-yard line later in the second but tight end Luke Stocker was stopped for no gain.
“If you look at their goal-line defence, and having a lot of good knowledge of what they do on the goal line, that’s one play that had worked,” Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said.
“It didn’t work tonight [but] that’s not the reason that we lost. That’s a bad play.”
Miller’s long TD, which helped Houston set a franchise record with 281 yards rushing, came on the next play.
He took the hand-off in the end zone and darted through a crowd of Titans before shedding one tackle and simply out-running the rest of the defence.
“My whole mindset is just don’t get caught,” Miller said. “Because . . . when we played the Dolphins, I got caught, so all the guys were giving me a hard time.
“So that was the only thing on my mind.”
The Texans kicked a field goal as time expired in the second quarter to take a 24-10 lead into halftime.
The Texans honoured McNair in a pre-game ceremony, which included a video tribute to him while the Texas A&M Singing Cadets sang “Amazing Grace.”
While the video was played, one side of the video board displayed the words: “Faith, Family, Philanthropy, Football.”
Painted on both 25-yard lines was a football with his initials that looked just like the decals on the players’ helmets.
TV cameras panned to several fans with signs honouring the late owner. One read: “McNair Never Forgotten.”