Halftime analysis of Texans’ Week 8 matchup vs. Tennessee

The Houston Texans were able to hang tough against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of their Week 8 matchup and will need a strong showing in the last two quarters to pull out an improbable victory. In a game that has been defined by the Titans’ quarterback situation, with rookie Malik Willis getting his first NFL start, the Texans are seeking to show that they can get a win over a quality opponent that has run their division in recent years.

Derrick Henry remains a thorn in their defense’s side, and Davis Mills hasn’t been able to get their offense in gear, but somehow Houston is still in a position to turn this game into something special in the second half with the right adjustments.

Down 7-3 heading into the third quarter, here is what we saw in the first half of this divisional matchup:

Texans' abysmal offensive performance was bailed out by stout defense

The Texans’ offense was incredibly bad in the first half. They managed to play almost unwatchable football. Davis Mills looked like someone who was signed off the street, and rookie running back Dameon Pierce had 11 rushes as the unit’s most viable ball carrier but wasn’t able to make much happen with just 32 yards to show for his effort.

If they don’t pick up the pace in the second half, the incredible performance of Houston’s defense will have been for naught, and the Texans will likely be doomed to their fifth loss in seven games. The team is only down by four points, but with the way that the first half played out, it feels a lot more like 40. A concerted effort needs to be made to get the ball in the hands of receiver Brandin Cooks and tight end Jordan Akins, who might be able to provide the offense the spark it needs to put up points.

Penalties haven't cost Houston yet, but will need to be cleaned up in second half

A sloppy first half by both teams ended with the penalty battle favoring the  Titans by the thinnest of margins. Given that Tennessee is the more established squad, it was surprising that they were unable to capitalize on the Texans’ miscues, but Houston fans shouldn’t count on that trend continuing.

Mike Vrabel and his staff will be looking to exploit every weakness that the Texans show in the second half, including their tendency to get grabby when blocking or in coverage. Watch for the Titans to play to their strengths with a third-quarter lead, and for the Texans to be forced to fight their way back against a much more fundamentally sound team.

Lack of injuries marks Texans' only bright spot

The Texans are fortunate to have not had any players go down due to injury in this game, and will be looking to keep that trend going in the second half. After adding some key players to their injury report on Friday, it became clear that Houston could not afford to lose any more talent in the weeks ahead, lest they doom themselves to fighting back from the early hole they’ve dug themselves in the AFC South standings.

With another healthy half over the last two quarters, the Texans will live to fight another week to try and advance their position beyond the bottom of the AFC.

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire