NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans may not impress many people with how they’re playing.
If they keep piling up victories, that’s all that matters.
LeShaun Sims intercepted a pass intended for DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone with 1:02 left, and the Titans beat the Houston Texans 24-13 on Sunday to stay atop the AFC South.
Marcus Mariota also ran for a touchdown and threw for another, but the Titans needed the interception to preserve the win with Tom Savage throwing for a career-high 365 yards despite the Texans losing four offensive players to injuries during the game.
“Man, we like the Comeback Kids, you know?” Titans tight end Delanie Walker said. “I hate that we not starting fast and playing all 60 minutes of football. But we do it at the end. We come back. We fight. We never give up. I love that.”
The Titans (8-4) won their second straight and sixth of their past seven. They improved to 4-1 in the AFC South to stay ahead of Jacksonville, a winner over Indianapolis.
“That’s our goal,” Mariota said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”
Tennessee didn’t look ready to take advantage of a chance for a little payback against Houston for the 57-14 beat-down the Texans put on them Oct. 1 when Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt were healthy. The Titans even fell behind 10-0 before rallying to tie it up at halftime.
Injuries have taken a toll on the Texans (4-8), and coach Bill O’Brien called it one of the tougher days he’s ever had personally.
“I’ve never been in this situation, so I’m learning on the job, too, as far as being in a losing situation right here,” O’Brien said.
Houston’s rearranged offensive line only gave up four sacks. Savage, evaluated at halftime for a concussion, even made up for three consecutive false starts by Jeff Allen, who slid over to left tackle, after having fourth-and-4. Savage found Stephen Anderson with a 22-yarder.
Sims, who came off the bench to replace injured teammate Logan Ryan, beat Hopkins for the interception on the next play. Derrick Henry ran 75 yards up the left sideline for a TD three plays later to seal the win. Henry finished with 109 yards rushing.
“That was a great play, as good a play as you can make on a ball that he made,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said of Sims’ interception.
The Titans quarterback ran for only four TDs combined through his first two seasons. He ran for a 9-yard TD in the second quarter, giving him a career-high five TD runs through 11 games. He also tossed a 24-yard TD pass to Walker in the third quarter, which gave Tennessee its first lead.
TEXANS KICKER STRUGGLES
Ka’imi Fairbairn struggled mightily. He clanked a 48-yard field goal attempt off the left upright with 38 seconds left in the first half, and the Titans responded with a field goal to tie it up at 10 at halftime.
The second-year kicker, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, yanked a 23-yarder late in the third quarter so wide to the left that he missed the net behind the goal posts. Fairbairn had missed only twice all season on 16 attempts.
He connected from 42 yards with 4:37 left to pull Houston within 17-13.
Houston’s lengthy injury report only grew longer. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz went out in the second quarter and didn’t return after being evaluated for a concussion. Receiver Braxton Miller and running back Alfred Blue also suffered concussions. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph was ruled out just after halftime with an injured shoulder. Receiver Bruce Ellington also couldn’t finish with an injured hamstring.
“I’ve never been a part of something like that with that many guys out,” Savage said.
Defensive end DaQuan Jones, who had 1½ sacks for Tennessee, had a biceps injury in the third quarter, and cornerback Logan Ryan suffered a concussion.
Texans: Host San Francisco.
Titans: Visit Arizona.
AP freelance writers Brian Hinchman and Terry McCormick contributed to this report.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker