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A Look Around The AFC South: Week 15

Intro: Take a comprehensive look around the AFC South after the 15th week of action in the 2016 regular season.


INDIANAPOLIS — Week 15 was, mostly, a good week for the AFC South Division.

That's not necessarily good news for the Indianapolis Colts.

But the silver lining is that the Colts were able to go on the road and demolish the Minnesota Vikings, 34-6, to keep their slim playoff hopes alive with, now, two games to go in the 2016 regular season.

The AFC South-leading Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans, meanwhile, were each able to squeak out victories in their respective matchups. By the time the Colts had won, the players had returned to the locker room to find both the Texans and the Titans trailing, though they would each come back to win against the Jacksonville Jaguars (21-20) and the Kansas City Chiefs (19-17) to remain atop the standings.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, continue their downward spiral, and after Sunday's game against the Texans, announced the firing of head coach Gus Bradley, who went 14-48 in parts of four seasons in Jacksonville, and saw his team lose its ninth straight game and move to 2-12 on the year after falling to the Texans.

The team has since hired former Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone as its interim head coach.

Back to the Colts: they hope to remain at least in the conversation for a possible playoff spot on Saturday, when they travel to Oakland to take on the postseason-bound Raiders. A loss for Indianapolis, and the Colts will be eliminated from playoff contention; but with a win and some help elsewhere — the Texans take on the Cincinnati Bengals, while the Titans take on the Jaguars — then Indy could have a little more hope.

But before we jump too far ahead into the Week 16 games, let's take a comprehensive look around the AFC South during Week 15 of the 2016 regular season, via the AP:

• Houston Texans 21, Jacksonville Jaguars 20
The Houston Texans maintained control of the AFC South and gained a quarterback controversy with a win over Jacksonville on Sunday.

The Jaguars lost their coach.

Tom Savage threw for 260 yards after Brock Osweiler was benched in the second quarter, and Lamar Miller scored Houston's only touchdown with less than three minutes remaining as the Texans rallied for the 21-20 victory . The defeat cost Gus Bradley his job in Jacksonville.

Houston coach Bill O'Brien wouldn't say who would start next week.

"We're always going to make decisions in the best interest of the team," O'Brien said. "We'll regroup here tonight. We've got a short week and we'll make decisions on anybody, any starter that we have. We make decisions on that every week."

The Jaguars fired Bradley after Jacksonville's ninth straight loss. He went 14-48 since taking over in 2013.

"It is unfortunately evident that we must make a change," Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement . "I thought it would be best to do it immediately after today's result so Gus can step away, relax and regroup with his family during the Christmas and holiday season."

The win was Houston's 10th straight in the division and left the Texans (8-6) tied with Tennessee for the AFC South lead. But Houston controls its playoff future with a 5-0 mark in the division.

Osweiler threw interceptions on consecutive drives in the second quarter to help Jacksonville build a 13-0 lead. O'Brien had insisted all season he hadn't thought about benching Osweiler, but he'd seen enough after that and brought in Savage . The move was met with a huge ovation from the home crowd that had been booing Osweiler for most of the day.

Houston trailed by nine entering the fourth quarter and Nick Novak made his fourth field goal before Miller bulled in for the go-ahead touchdown. The Jaguars were flagged for pass interference twice on that drive to set up the score.

The Jaguars (2-12) got the ball back twice, but they failed on a fourth-down conversion the first time and Blake Bortles was intercepted the second time.

Bortles addressed his level of frustration.

"I think it's about as high as it can get," he said. "I don't know, really, for anybody in this locker room how much more frustrated you can be. We had all the opportunities in the world, chances in the fourth quarter to score, and we just don't do it."

Osweiler has struggled in his first season in Houston after signing a $72 million contract to join the Texans from Denver. He has 16 interceptions and 14 touchdown passes. Osweiler was 6 for 11 for 48 yards before he was pulled.

"We don't make decisions on how much a guy gets paid," O'Brien said. "We make decisions on what's the best way to win a game. That was the decision we made today and I thought today, it worked out OK."

It was the first regular-season appearance since Dec. 14, 2014 for Savage, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.

The Texans cut the lead to five with a field goal in the third quarter. The Jaguars quickly padded it when Marqise Lee returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-8.

Another field goal for Houston cut the lead to 20-11 late in the third quarter.

Earlier, a high pass by Osweiler was deflected by Will Fuller, intercepted by Jalen Ramsey and returned 35 yards. Jacksonville's offense couldn't move Jason Myers made a 50-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead in the second quarter.

Osweiler was picked off again on the next drive and Jacksonville cashed in when Bortles ran for a 1-yard touchdown to push the lead to 13-0.

"You're disappointed because you feel like you let them down, but then at the same time you're happy because this football team found a way to win," Osweiler said.

The Texans first points came late in the first half when Jacksonville was called for holding in the end zone on a punt, giving Houston a safety to make it 13-2.

Houston's Nick Novak added a field goal for a 13-5 halftime score.

• Tennessee Titans 19, Kansas City Chiefs 17
Titans coach Mike Mularkey simply wanted to win, so he chose to try a 2-point conversion in the closing minutes in Kansas City rather than let Ryan Succop kick the tying extra point.

Turns out Succop just needed to keep warm a little bit longer.

After the Titans failed on their conversion attempt, they forced the Chiefs to punt the ball back with about a minute left. Marcus Mariota deftly led them into field-goal range, and Succop connected from 53 yards for a 19-17 victory Sunday that kept the Titans tied with Houston atop the AFC South.

"This team won't quit. Never has," said Mularkey, whose team has won three straight games for the first time since the 2011 season. "It's a good locker room."

Succop, who began his career with Kansas City, actually came up short on his first try at the winner, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid had called a timeout just before the snap. Given a second chance, Succop knocked it through with a couple feet to spare as the Titans poured off the bench to celebrate.

"Kind of backfired," Reid said sadly.

The Titans (8-6) had rallied from a 17-7 hole, and Derrick Henry's second touchdown run got them within 17-16 with just over three minutes left. But that's when Mularkey went for a 2-point conversion and the lead, and Mariota was pressured immediately and his pass never reached the end zone.

But the Chiefs (10-4), who began the day tied with Oakland atop the AFC West, failed to pick up the first down that would have not only clinched the win but also their spot in the playoffs.

The Titans got the ball back, Mariota completed three long passes and Succop did the rest.

"You can sit here and point fingers and all that stuff that bad teams do, or you can fix it," Reid said of the late-game meltdown, "and I have total trust in this team to do that."

The dramatic turn of events came after Tennessee squandered plenty of chances early.

Rishard Matthews fumbled within sight of the goal line in the first half, ending the Titans' streak of four straight games without a turnover. And Mariota, a Hawaii native, had plenty of trouble dealing with the cold weather, fumbling the ball away and throwing an interception to Ron Parker .

Not surprisingly, he credited the Titans defense for shutting out Kansas City in the second half.

"Huge, huge, huge," Mariota said. "Really just gave us the opportunity at the end."

It was 1 degree at kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium, with a wind chill of minus-19, making it the coldest game in Kansas City since the franchise began keeping records in 1994.

The Chiefs nevertheless got off to a hot start when Tyreek Hill faked like he was running an option play and took an inside handoff instead, running untouched 68 yards for a first-quarter touchdown.

It was the sixth touchdown for the dynamic rookie in the last four weeks.

Alex Smith added a TD run later in the half, and Cairo Santos knocked through a field goal, but the Chiefs also blew a couple of opportunities. They were repelled twice at the 1-yard line and came away without points, and Smith threw an interception in the end zone early in the second half.

It all came back to haunt them when Succop hit from 39 yards early in the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game, and Titans got the ball back and marched for a touchdown to get within a point — setting up Succop's chance to beat the team that cut him a couple years ago.

"I thought we were awful on third down and we didn't capitalize in the red zone," Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. "We had an opportunity to put the game away and didn't get it done."

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