'It Was Huge' | Justin Reid, Whitney Mercilus Play Set Tone For Texans

It was the play Tennessee wanted, but Reid spoiled it

Brandon Scott
December 16, 2019 - 10:14 am

Justin Reid and Whitney Mercilus came up with a play to change the complexity of Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans. 

With the Titans driving and in the red zone in the second quarter, Ryan Tannehill tried to find tight end Anthony Firkser for a score. 

It was the play Tennessee wanted, but Texans safety Justin Reid spoiled it, knocking the ball from Firkser's hands and into Whitney Mercilus'.

The outside linebacker was able to return it 86 yards and set the Texans up for an easy two-play touchdown drive.

After the game, Reid said the defense recognized Tennessee's formation on 1st and goal from game film. Reid said he did not want to guess the play, so he played to his rules. 

But when he saw Firsker skip off the line of scrimmage, he knew the tight end was running a rub route.

"So I was going to meet him at the point at the goal line and I knew it was either going to be him or me, and I know he’s not going to score on me," Reid said. "I put my shoulder on the ball and ended up popping it up. The awareness by Whitney Mercilus to be there, catch the ball, and take it I don’t know how many yards. It was a turning point in the game and really gave the team a lot of juice and momentum."

Firkser said after the game he has to make the catch, control the ball and not allow it to pop out. 

The Texans were able to take a 14-0 lead into halftime, built largely off that turnover. Tennessee's next drive was a three-and-out. Houston scored on another touchdown pass to Kenny Stills after a nine-play, 72-yard drive.

"It was huge," Tannehill said of the Mercilus interception. "I had man coverage on the outside, I had exactly what we wanted. We wanted to get (Anthony Firkser) Firk there coming on the inside, and the guy knocked the ball loose right after Firk had his hands on it, and it just happened to go right in (Whitney) Mercilus’ lap. Two weeks in a row that it popped right into someone’s lap, so that’s a tough situation and a tough swing for us. It’s a 14-point swing and that was huge."

The Texans hold sole possession of the AFC South division lead with a road game against the Tampa Bay Buccanneers on Saturday, before finishing the season at home against the Titans. 

One win in either of these next two games clinches the division for the Texans. 

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