Texans’ Desmond King reads Ryan Tannehill’s eyes, picks off his passes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Desmond King read veteran Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s eyes, relying on his advanced knowledge of his former teammate to pick off his passes.

The Texans' starting cornerback grabbed two of Tannehill’s career-high four interceptions Sunday at soggy Nissan Stadium during a 22-13 upset victory that halted an eight-game losing streak. Under the direction of defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, the Texans have forced five turnovers in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history and just the third time in the past decade among NFL teams as they joined the 2017 Baltimore Ravens and the 2015 New York Jets.

“Just reading Tennessee, saw the quarterback the whole time just staring him down, and I think that’s what coach Lovie preaches,” said King, a former Pro Bowl selection. “That’s where the ball is going to go, wherever the quarterback is looking. So, I just felt that hand come off the ball and I was like, ‘That’s my chance to go.'"

Tannehill passed for just 25 yards on play-action passes on 3 of 6 passing for his second-fewest in a game as the Titans starter. He entered Sunday averaging 10.7 yards per attempt on play-action since joining the Titans in 2019 for the second-best in the NFL during that span.

“We just knew he’s more of a play-action type of quarterback and just drop-backs, it’s a weakness of his,” King said. “So, that’s just something that we just kind of picked up watching film and I knew playing with him last year, just little things about him and how he does and what he looks for during the play.

Tannehill was also intercepted by cornerback Terrance MItchell in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter to allow the Texans to put the game away. His interception to linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill was returned 82 yards before running back Dontrell Hilliard saved a touchdown.

Tannehill completed 35 of 52 passes for 323 yards and one touchdown for a 58.4 passer rating.

“Yeah, I’m not going to get into the details of everything,” Tannehill said. “At the end of the day, it all falls squarely upon me. I have to be better.

“We moved the ball well, we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot. We shot ourselves in the foot all day and we’ve got to be better. It starts with me.”

Tannehill denied that the Texans threw him off with any disguised coverage schemes.

“No, there was no fooling there,” he said. “Just got to be better.”

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans

Photo: Getty Images

King recorded his first interception in three seasons. A healthy scratch for disciplinary reasons for one game earlier this season after unexcused absences at mandatory team activities, King earned praise from coach David Culley.

“You know, he played consistent today,” King said. “He's a tough football player, a guy who plays hard all the time. He did his job today. He was in position, and he got in position and got a chance to make some plays.

“I’m just doing my job, doing what’s expected. The defense played really well today. We played together. I think we played really well together all four quarters and we didn’t give up. We bent, but we didn’t give up. We fought back and just kept doing our job.”

If there was any emotional significance for King playing against his former team, he didn’t acknowledge any extra sentiment.

“No, that’s just me simply doing my job,” King said. “That’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s what’s expected out of me. That’s what’s expected out of our team. We’ve got high standards and that’s what coach Lovie preaches each and every week.”

King has played nickel in the past, but shifted to outside corner as the replacement for Vernon Hargreaves, who was released and now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. This marked his top performance since joining the Texans.

“It was huge,” Texans safety Eric Murray said. “In the past couple of years, Dez always has been a very versatile and big-time player playing nickel and so he made the transition and he’s doing a good job out there.”

Grugier-Hill jumped in front of a Tannehill pass in the first quarter and dashed 82 yards before he got tackled.

When he entered the visitors’ press conference, Grugier-Hill exclaimed: “Whoo!”

“I was excited I made the play, but I’ve got to score that,” Grugier-Hill said. “I’ve got to score that, but we played good defense today, man. We played good team ball, and we’re just so excited. Man, I can’t even talk right now, I’m so excited.”

The only things bothering Grugier-Hill right now: the frustration of not scoring and having to hear about it from his teammates.  

“Oh, yeah,” Grugier-Hill said. “I’m not going to be able to live that one out for a while.”

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