NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tyrod Taylor caught some serious air Sunday, leaping high into the air and sacrificing his body to force his way into the end zone at the expense of Tennessee Titans safety Malik Hooker.
Not only did the veteran quarterback halt a road touchdown drought that spanned 63 days and dated back to the second game of the season against the Cleveland Browns, but his pair of touchdown runs helped boost the Texans to a 22-13 upset victory over the first-place Titans at rain-soaked Nissan Stadium as they snapped an eight-game losing streak.
The Texans’ touchdown drought had lasted four road games, tying them with five other teams for the longest streak since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
The way that Taylor lifted himself airborne and the offense one game after his rusty performance in a loss to the Miami Dolphins that included three interceptions provided inspiration to his teammates. Taylor jumped over and through Hooker for the touchdown to give the Texans a 12-0 lead in the first half.
“It was an amazing play, tremendous play,” running back Rex Burkhead said. “To see your quarterback do that especially, you’re kind of like, just come down in one piece. He is a tremendous player. The fighter he is to sacrifice for his team, giving up his body was pretty cool.”
It was a mudder kind of football game, and Taylor was the right kind of quarterback for this game as the Titans turned the football over five times, including four interceptions by quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Taylor rushed for 28 yards and a career-high two touchdown runs, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He also beat Hooker to the corner and dove into the end zone in the third quarter to extend the Texans’ lead to 19-0.
On the first touchdown, Taylor was initially looking to throw the ball to Burkhead. When the Titans’ defense disrupted his passing lanes, Taylor took off for the end zone.
“We called an option route for Rex on that one, the defensive line kind of got in the vision of him,” Taylor said. “I stepped left to get to a better side of Rex and realized there was room to run and was able to make a play. I felt like the defensive guy was probably going to go low, so I went high.”
Taylor wasn’t especially sharp in the second half as a passer, finishing 14 of 24 for 107 yards and a 69.3 passer rating after completing 12 of his first 14 throws for 94 yards and a 94.6 passer rating at halftime. He completed just two throws in the second half out of his 10 throws for 13 yards. His longest completion was 13 yards on a throw to wide receiver Chris Conley. He was never sacked against a Titans defensive line headlined by Jeffery Simmons, Harold Landry and Denico Autry.
“Their quarterback had two good raw runs,” Simmons said. “We have to do a better job of containing the quarterback when we know we are playing against a scramble quarterback. We knew that Tyrod is a hell of a player coming into the game. We knew that he could win games.”
“They did a good job of getting him outside the pocket, on boots and sprint outs and stuff,” Titans cornerback Elijah Molden said. “ We knew he was a good player. The first two games of the season he played really well. In Miami he was getting back in the groove, and we knew we were going to get his best, and we did.”
Taylor is now 2-1 in games he has finished this season for the Texans, who went 0 and 6 with rookie Davis Mills starting. It was Mills who connected with wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the second game of the season against the Cleveland Browns for the last touchdown for the Texans on the road prior to Taylor’s touchdown run.
When informed how long it had been since the Texans had scored a road touchdown, Taylor had a glib reply.
“It doesn’t feel that way, but thanks for putting that in perspective,” he said.
Taylor played much better than he did against the Dolphins when the Texans managed to lose despite having five turnovers on defense. They went 0 for 4 in the red zone against Miami.
“All I wanted to see him do was don't throw it to the other team, he didn't do that today,” Texans coach David Culley said. “When he doesn't do that, we have a chance to win. Do we need to be better and more consistent at throwing it it?
“Yes, we do. Same thing with our run game, but the big thing is you'll have a chance as long as you protect the football. He did that today.”
For Taylor, a former Pro Bowl selection with the Buffalo Bills, this was a step in the right direction. And his mobility added an element to the Texans’ offense.
When things break down, Taylor can escape and use his elusiveness in the open field to make something happen.
“I think it definitely added to it, but it was also just the flow of the game,” Taylor said. “And obviously when you get conditions like this, some stuff you’re comfortable with, some stuff you have to get away from until the conditions slow down a little bit. I think (offensive coordinator) Coach (Tim) Kelly did a great job calling the game today, putting guys in the right position to go out and make plays. The guys up front did a great job handling their front seven. The receivers made plays on the back end when the option presented itself.”
Beating the Titans, an 8-3 team playing without star running back Derrick Henry, felt significant for an AFC South franchise that has struggled mightily all season and hasn’t had a lot of positives surrounding them.
“Proud of the way we fought, obviously, to come on the road in a divisional game with a team that was on a win streak definitely feels good to get that win,” Taylor said. “Obviously, it wasn't a clean game or it wasn't a perfect game. It was a win for us. So, there’s still stuff to clean up, but we’ll do that.
“Obviously, it's tough to learn from each and every game where we’re going, regardless of the outcome, but when you win, it's just the team morale is up, and I think it's an opportunity for us to build and continue moving forward.”