Titans second-year cornerback LeShaun Sims had a daunting task when Logan Ryan suffered a concussion midway through the third quarter: Stop DeAndre Hopkins.
Sims not only limited the Texans’ star receiver to one catch the rest of the way, but he also grabbed a game-sealing interception in the end zone with just over a minute to play as the Titans rallied for a 24-13 victory over the Texans on Sunday at Nissan Stadium. Derrick Henry raced to a 75-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to set the final score.
“Hopkins is a tough cover,” Sims said. “He’s very physical, so you know you have to try to pretty much fight fire with fire and try to get your hands on him and be aggressive as well, so you know it’s definitely a tough cover. You have to be locked in for 60 minutes of football with him, with a guy like that.”
Hopkins finished with eight catches on 14 targets for 80 yards. He had just one catch on three targets for 14 yards in the fourth quarter.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey praised Sims, who was drafted in the fifth round out of Southern Utah in 2016.
“You’ve got a tough duty when you’ve got to cover (Hopkins), and he did a really outstanding job,” Mularkey said. “That was a great play – I mean, as good a play as you can make on a ball that he made.”
The Titans were clinging to a 17-13 lead when Sims intercepted Texans quarterback Tom Savage in the end zone. Savage completed 31 of 49 pass attempts for 365 yards, a touchdown and the pick.
Savage had just converted a fourth-and-19, hitting tight end Stephen Anderson to give the Texans a first down at the Titans’ 29-yard line.
Sims knew Savage was going to look for Hopkins, his best receiver and among the most targeted in the NFL.
“I just saw him break inside, and I looked back at the quarterback,” Sims said. “I was on top of the route, and when he threw it to the outside I just tried to whip around and make the play.”
Titans safety Kevin Byard, who entered the game with an NFL-best six interceptions, was right there in coverage, as well.
“Honestly, I was actually trying to get across DeAndre Hopkins to get the ball,” Byard said, “and (Sims) just with the speed, turned and caught the ball with straight hands. It was beautiful. It looked like a tight end or something. It was great. It was beautiful. It was.”