NASHVILLE — Forget about that rough stint with Dallas. It looks as if Brandon Weeden might be the right quarterback at the right time for the Houston Texans.
Weeden scored his first career rushing touchdown and threw for two more as the Texans moved closer to the AFC South title with a 34-6 victory over the hapless Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Houston (8-7), which hosts Jacksonville in its regular-season finale next Sunday, lost out on a chance to clinch the division title when Indianapolis beat Miami 18-12 this weekend. The Texans could wrap it up on Monday night if Cincinnati wins at Denver.
"We have to play to win," Houston coach Bill O’Brien said of his approach against Jacksonville. "I think the bottom line is we need to win. I don’t think we can look at any scenario, this scenario, that scenario, I believe that we need to play to win."
Houston has won seven of its last eight against the Titans. The Texans forced four turnovers and turned them into 17 points. Quintin Demps returned a fumble 33 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game, putting Houston ahead to stay.
J.J. Watt even got his first sack since breaking his left wrist.
"Quite frankly, it really doesn’t matter what anybody else does," Watt said. "We go out there and we win next week, that’s all that matters."
The Titans (3-12) did nothing to hurt their chances at the No. 1 pick in the draft, turning the ball over twice in the first quarter. Interim coach Mike Mularkey called it a disappointing loss, with a few fans wearing the day’s giveaway — a cloth grocery bag — over their heads.
"I really thought we were prepared," Mularkey said. "I thought we had a good plan and felt good about it."
The Texans scored a season high in points despite starting their fourth different quarterback this year.
With Brian Hoyer scratched before kickoff as he recovers from his second concussion in a month, Weeden became the first player in franchise history to throw for two TDs and run for another. He finished with 200 yards passing for his first win as a starter this season after coming off the bench to beat the Colts a week ago.
Weeden began the season with the Cowboys and lost each of this three starts while subbing for the injured Tony Romo. He was cut by Dallas last month.
"We needed this one," Weeden said. "As a team, we needed this one. It feels good personally, I’m more excited for this team."
O’Brien even worked backup B.J. Daniels, signed Monday off Seattle’s practice squad, onto the field. Daniels completed his first career pass in the first quarter, a 7-yarder to Jaelen Strong, and he finished the game in the fourth quarter.
Kareem Jackson stripped Antonio Andrews to end Tennessee’s first series, a ball Demps picked up and ran in for the TD. Nick Novak also kicked a 22-yard field goal, and Weeden hit former Titans wide receiver Nate Washington for a 13-yard TD in the third quarter after Eddie Pleasant took the ball away from Andrews after a catch. That put Houston up 31-0.
The only good thing for the Titans was allowing just the one sack to Watt after Zach Mettenberger was sacked seven times in the first game between the teams Nov. 1. They also avoided being shut out at home for the first time since 1976 when Mettenberger hit rookie Tre McBride for a 1-yard TD with 91 seconds left.
Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright started and caught three passes before going to the locker room with an injured knee, and left tackle Taylor Lewan left early in the second quarter to be checked for a concussion. Neither returned.
NOTES: Houston LB Jadeveon Clowney left early in the fourth quarter with an injured left foot. O’Brien said he thought Clowney was fine. … The Texans finished 4-4 on the road, beating all three divisional opponents on the road for the first time in franchise history. … The Titans have not been shut out at home since Dec. 11, 1976, when the then-Oilers lost 21-0 to Pittsburgh.