The Houston Texans defense came into the game against the Tennessee Titans without their two best players in Blake Cashman and Will Anderson Jr. Cashman has been the team's best linebacker by a mile and has been able to assist in every way imaginable this season; being the team's best run-stopper, being good in coverage and providing decent pressure on the quarterback from time to time.
Anderson may be the Texans' best all-around defensive end and has been just as important against stopping the running game as Cashman has. While Anderson lacks the sacks as fellow defensive end Jonathan Greenard, Anderson's presence has helped Greenard break out, as teams have to account for both men now.
And yet, the Texans didn't have either on hand for the Titans game, a game the Texans won thanks to a great defensive effort.
Greenard led the way with 2.5 sacks, now giving him 12.5 on the season, and helping the Texans hit a season-high total of seven sacks on the day against the Titans. Maliek Collins added 1.5 sacks on the day, and Desmond King II, Derek Barnett, and Khalil Davis all added an additional sack each.
Barnett started his first game for the Texans and has strung together two great outings for his new team, playing the last three games for Houston after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles. In back-to-back games, he's posted PFF scores of 83 and 87.8.
That's not all the defense did, as they held Derrick Henry to less than one yard-per-carry on the day. He had 16 attempts for just nine yards and looked like a shell of his former self. Henry is on pace for another 1,000-yard season and already has his sixth 10-plus touchdown season. He's not what he was a few years back, but he's still one of the NFL's better running backs, and the Texans manhandled him.
Without their two best run-stoppers. The Texans' defense is getting to be very good, even without some key pieces and the NFL should take notice.