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A Look Around The AFC South

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A Look Around The AFC South: 12.11.18 offers a comprehensive look at the latest action around the AFC South Division, courtesy of the Associated Press and presented by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs past Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Leon Jacobs (48) for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. Henry scored a touchdown on the 99-yard run. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs past Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Leon Jacobs (48) for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. Henry scored a touchdown on the 99-yard run. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Houston Texans

Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien on Monday defended Jadeveon Clowney and his late offside penalty that factored into Houston's 24-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, which ended a nine-game winning streak.

"He's an aggressive player and you never want to take away that aggressiveness," O'Brien said. "In that situation, he made a mistake, and I'm sure he'd be the first to tell you that. Andrew (Luck) did a good job on that play, and (Colts coach) Frank (Reich) did a good job of getting their guys coached up on it."

With two minutes remaining on Sunday and the Texans down 24-21 and needing a critical stop at midfield on third-and-1, Luck tried several times to draw the Texans offside before Clowney finally took the bait.

The 5-yard penalty gave the Colts a first down and, ultimately, the win. The Colts (7-6) snapped a franchise-record winning streak by Houston (9-4), trimming the Texans' lead in the AFC South to two games with three remaining.

Clowney later refused to comment when approached by reporters after the game.

O'Brien said Monday that on the play, there was a sense among the Texans defensive players that the Colts would try to run the ball in the short-yardage situation and that Clowney was not at fault for the loss.

"He's a very aggressive player who has made a lot of plays for us," O'Brien said. "We didn't lose the game because of that. We lost the game because we had four or five three-and-outs, gave up 199 yards to one receiver and we didn't play our best game on special teams. That's really more what it came down to."

Clowney had two tackles in the game and has 7 sacks on the season, second on the team to J.J. Watt's 12½ sacks.

"No one wants to lose," O'Brien said. "It's a bottom-line business when you lose a game like that. We've lost four games this year by a touchdown or less and that's the NFL — these games are very, very tight. There are six to eight plays in a game that are critical and if you don't execute those plays, you're probably going to lose the game."

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Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars' defense followed up a shutout with a washout.

A defense that prides itself as one of the NFL's best got embarrassed on a national stage by Derrick Henry in the Jaguars' 30-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night.

"It was sad out there," Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey said.

Henry stiff-armed three Jaguars on an NFL record-tying 99-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and spent the rest of the night running all over a defense that seemed like it would have rather been anywhere else. Henry finished the night with a franchise-record 238 yards rushing and four touchdowns on just 17 carries.

Jacksonville's toothless offense generally leaves its defense with no margin for error. The Jaguars produced a single-digit scoring total for the fifth time this season Thursday. They have exceeded 21 points just once in their last nine games.

So if the defense isn't dominant, the Jaguars have little chance of winning. That defense was virtually flawless Sunday as the Jaguars snapped a seven-game skid with a 6-0 victory over Indianapolis that resulted in Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's first career shutout loss.

But a defense that could do no wrong against the Colts did very little right Thursday.

"We pitched a shutout to a top-five offense, and then you come back and you're sitting here right now and got drummed like that on national TV," Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said. "Who would want to watch the Jaguars on national television when you let Derrick Henry run for (almost) 250? He could have run for 300 today, if we're being honest with ourselves. If I was his coach, I would have let him break the record."

The difference was that the Colts continually threw the ball against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed 15 touchdown passes all season, matching Minnesota for the fewest of any NFL team. Jacksonville is more vulnerable against the run, which helps explain why the Jaguars have lost to the Titans four straight times.

"We've got to stop the run," Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye said. "Everybody tried to talk about like how our defense is back. People have got to realize Indy played to our strengths. They tried to pass the ball (nearly) 60 times. (Tennessee) didn't really try to pass the ball today. They just ran the ball and they dominated. That's been the common denominator for the last four times we played them."


Tennessee Titans

Mike Vrabel asked his Tennessee Titans to play physical in their third game in 11 days. With Derrick Henry leading the way with a handful of rushing records, they did just that with a big victory to stay in the AFC playoff chase.

Now they get a weekend to rest before their final road trip of the season, and then another short week.

"They've done everything we asked them to do," Vrabel said Friday on a conference call. "So, it'll be good to get some time off, get some guys healed up. I have to do a good job of managing the schedule, and still getting us ready for the Giants, but trying to get everybody back that we could possibly get back to help us try to win another game."

Vrabel didn't have injury updates for any of the Titans hurt in Thursday night's 30-9 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

After that call with reporters, reported tight end Jonnu Smith, hurt on Henry's NFL record-tying 99-yard touchdown run, will miss the rest of the season with an injured knee. NFL Network reported right tackle Jack Conklin will miss a few weeks with his own injured knee.

Losing Smith would hurt the most. The Titans already lost three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker in the season opener, while veteran Dennis Kelly is in line to replace Conklin after coming off the bench Thursday night. Kelly has started nine games for the Titans over the past three seasons.

But the Titans are coming off the franchise's best rushing performance in nearly a decade with Henry turning in 238 yards on just 17 carries for the best output in the NFL this season. Henry not only tied Tony Dorsett's 99-yard touchdown run for the longest in NFL history, but he also took the franchise rushing mark from Chris Johnson — set against the Jaguars on Nov. 1, 2009.

The Titans ran for 305 yards in that game and finished with 264 yards on Thursday night. That topped their previous best this season by 100 yards and helped Tennessee improve to 5-1 at home.

Being able to run effectively in the cold of December certainly can help, and the Titans visit the Giants (4-8) on Dec. 16 before wrapping up against Washington (6-6) and Indianapolis (6-6) in Nashville.

Vrabel said the key will be consistency and running like that each week. Henry will have a chance to help do that after not starting the last four games. Henry now leads the Titans with 712 yards and a career-high nine TDs rushing, averaging 4.9 yards per carry after his record-setting night.

"His attitude and his preparation has remained consistent," Vrabel said. "That was always good to see. We'll try to keep that going, obviously we have to try to keep that going. Just the confidence that it had for everybody on the team (Thursday) night."


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