Houston's gets boost with Fuller's return in 57-14 win
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
HOUSTON (AP) DeAndre Hopkins was confident that the return of Will Fuller would help open things up for him and improve Houston's offense.
The veteran receiver was right, as Fuller had two touchdown receptions in his season debut and Hopkins had his first 100-yard game of the season to help the Texans (2-2) score the most points in franchise history in a 57-14 win over the Tennessee Titans (2-2) on Sunday.
Fuller returned after missing the first three games after breaking his collarbone early in camp. The first-round pick in 2016 had touchdown receptions of 16 and 10 yards for the first multi-touchdown game of his career.
"Will can open up the field," Hopkins said. "He's a big part of this offense scoring 50-something points the way we did. You can't just key in on me. You have to obviously watch Will down the field every play because he has the speed that you can't coach."
Hopkins, who had dealt with near-constant double teams through the first three games, faced more single coverages on Sunday and finished with 10 receptions for 107 yards and a score.
Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, who threw for four touchdowns and ran for another score, agreed that the addition of Fuller helped him as well.
"Being able to have all of the weapons on the field, it just makes my job easier," he said.
Fuller finished with four catches for 35 yards, but was also part of another big play that led to a Texans' score. The Titans had cut the lead to 10 points on a TD run by Marcus Mariota in the second quarter when Fuller beat rookie Adoree' Jackson badly and Jackson threw him down in the end zone, drawing a 45-yard pass interference penalty. Watson scored on a 1-yard run on the next play to extend Houston's lead to 30-14.
Some things to know about Houston's huge win over the Titans.
Mariota injured his hamstring on his second touchdown run before halftime and did not return. Matt Cassel took over and struggled, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble in the second half. Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey said they'd know more about Mariota's injury after he had an MRI on Monday.
Mariota warmed up after halftime before they decided that he should sit out the rest of the game.
"I said to him: `I'd like to be smart about it. There's a lot of football still to go,'" Mularkey said.
ANOTHER STANDOUT ROOKIE
While Watson got most of the spotlight on Sunday for his big performance, the Texans also got a good game from another rookie. Linebacker Dylan Cole, who joined the team as an undrafted free agent, returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown to extend Houston's lead to 54-14 in the fourth quarter. Cole also had five tackles and a sack to become the first rookie in NFL history to have five or more tackles, a sack and an interception return for a touchdown in the same game.
"He's just stepped up and played," defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. "He's been real big and nobody suspected that out of him this year. But the guy can run, he's got good vision. He knows what's going on out there and he just plays nonstop."
PICKS ON PICKS ON PICKS
Houston's big day on offense was helped by a defense that forced five turnovers. Houston finished with four interceptions to tie a franchise-record, after picking off Mariota twice and intercepting Cassel two more times. Andre Hal led the way, grabbing two of the interceptions, including one on Tennessee's first possession of the game.
"Every day in practice I'm catching balls after practice," Hal said. "Last year, I dropped a lot, so this year I'm not dropping any interceptions."
Mularkey hopes that Sunday's lopsided loss made his team angry and is looking for the Titans to respond on next Sunday when they visit the Dolphins. As bad as Sunday's loss was, the Titans still have plenty to play for and are tied with the Texans and Jaguars with the AFC South's best record at 2-2.
"I would think they would take it personal," Mularkey said. "I would definitely think that."
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Updated October 1, 2017