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Recap: Titans hold on to beat Buccaneers, 27-23

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Another wild finish.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Titans have moved to 4-4 after another dramatic win this afternoon. Tennessee fought back from a deficit in the fourth quarter to win — despite an extremely questionable call from Mike Vrabel at the end of the game.

Early on, this game was defined by the mistakes of Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston. A miscommunication by Winston and his center created a fumble, which the Titans jumped on early in the first quarter. The turnover gave Ryan Tannehill the football inside of the ten yard line.

Tannehill made quick work of it, finding Jonnu Smith on a slant for the first touchdown of the game.

Coming back from that, Winston was picked off by Malcolm Butler, giving Tennessee the ball once again in the redzone. Tannehill missed on his first two throws, but hit Tajae Sharpe on a fade route to cash in.

After a quarter, Tannehill had about 20 yards passing and two touchdowns. The Titans had built a 14-3 lead without doing much work offensively.

Winston would settle in, however. He led a drive to another field goal, narrowly avoiding another interception after a replay. With a 14-6 deficit, the Buccaneers used a big punt return to jumpstart their next drive.

Just when the Bucs were threatening, a botched run play which featured Dare Ogunbowale tackled by Breshad Perriman ended the drive. Tampa added another three points to bring it to a 14-9 game.

Tannehill got things moving quickly with a big play to Jonnu Smith — but that’s where the drive ended. A stuffed Derrick Henry run left a third and seven, where Tannehill was sacked. Cody Parkey added a field goal though, extending the lead back to eight points.

From there, the Mike Evans show began. Winston found Evans three times on the drive as he abused LeShaun Sims. Evans grabbed a jump ball over Kevin Byard to set Tampa up in the redzone, then Winston rewarded him with a touchdown pass.

The two-point conversion was failed, keeping this at a 17-15 game going into the break.

A Derrick Henry fumble put Tennessee in hot water to start the second half. Things got worse when Winston connected with Evans for another massive gain. One more time, Winston finished the drive by finding Evans again, who was just destroying the Titans’ secondary.

Winston found Chris Godwin for the two-point conversion, which brought the Tampa Bay lead to 23-17. The Titans have been able to lean on their defense this season, but on this day, Dean Pees had no answer for Evans. The offense had to step it up, but through two quarters, that didn’t seem all that likely.

Making matters worse, Ben Jones left the game with an injury in the third quarter. This coming after Rodger Saffold went down in the first half. The next play? A sack that ended the drive. Thankfully, Jones was able to return on the next drive.

Needing a spark, Tennessee got started with a 20 yard burst from Derrick Henry. A pass interference call going against the Bucs brought the Titans into Tampa Bay territory. But once again, all offensive progress stopped. Arthur Smith continued to pound Derrick Henry, but the door weren’t opening for Henry. Vrabel sent Parkey out again, cutting the lead to 23-20 at the end of the third quarter.

To open the fourth quarter, Dean Pees’ group got a stop. Tannehill found Jonnu Smith to kick off the next drive, then Derrick Henry ripped off a huge run to flip the field — only to be called back by a hold. But Tannehill was able to get 20 yards to move the sticks, connecting with Tajae Sharpe on third and four.

Henry took a toss around the corner for another first down, putting the Titans in striking distance. Adam Humphries then caught a quick strike to get inside of the ten. After a MyCole Pruitt drop and a short dump to Dion Lewis, Tannehill was faced with a third and goal from the eight. He delivered a strike to A.J. Brown for the score, taking the lead back at 27-23.

It was a 12 play, 90 yard drive for the Titans, who desperately needed it after a dull day to that point.

The Titans needed another stop from the defense — and they got one. It was Harold Landry screaming off the edge and forcing the fumble from Winston. Tennessee recovered, ran some time off and then Mike Vrabel made his worst decision of the year, which is saying something.

Instead of going for the three points from 46 yards out, Vrabel called a fake field goal, which was stuffed. The kick could have put the Titans up seven points with under four minutes to play. Instead, Tennessee now needed another stop.

Jameis quickly worked past midfield, using his legs to move the chains. The Tennessee defense clamped down once Tampa got within striking distance though. A fourth and one was brought to the table at the Titans’ 30 yard line — and the defense held.

The Titans got the ball back with 1:53 left and the Bucs had just one timeout left. They bled the clock down to 42 seconds before having to punt back.

Winston promptly threw a game-ending interception. Tennessee survived, keeping those playoff hopes alive.

Tennessee, now at 4-4, will face the Panthers next Sunday in Charlotte.