0-2, a variety of injuries — things couldn’t have started much worse for the Tennessee Titans. The good news? The AFC South appears to stink, so a slow start might not completely doom your playoff hopes.
But Mike Vrabel had to come up with a way to turn things around, quickly. This afternoon, he did just that.
The Titans struck first, scoring a touchdown on their opening drive for the third consecutive week. It was a 12 play, 75 yard drive that utilized Derrick Henry heavily, both on the ground and through the air. Ryan Tannehill found Geoff Swaim to take a quick 7-0 lead.
Despite losing Taylor Lewan for the season, the Titans looked much better up front early on. Henry was running with more steam, finding some room to operate. Todd Downing also worked to get him the ball more in space.
That formula was working, as the Titans built at 14-3 lead.
Still, defensive issues were glaring, with the Titans down their top three pass rushers. Derek Carr had plenty of time to throw, and he quickly found his favorite target for a score. Davante Adams got two feet down in the back of the endzone to cut the lead back down to 14-10.
Tannehill had an answer though. Robert Woods was his favorite target in the first half, and those two worked together manufacture another scoring drive. It ended with a Tannehill sneak, and the Titans held a 21-10 lead.
Randy Bullock pushed the lead out to 24-10 ahead of the halftime break.
The Titans were rolling right along until Tannehill threw a pick in the third quarter. A long pass play to Darren Waller was called back due to a hold, which ended up saving the Titans and forcing a punt.
Disaster was averted, and the offense went to work trying to salt this one away. Dontrell Hilliard came up with a big catch and run, then Derrick Henry got the Titans past midfield. The Tennessee drive stalled, however, and Mike Vrabel opted to go for it on 4th and 4. Treylon Burks couldn’t make the catch, and the Raiders found some new life.
Las Vegas marched right down the field and .... Derek Carr threw a pick in the endzone. The Titans weren’t able to get anything going offensively though, which kept the Raiders alive.
A field goal made it a one-score game late, and Carr got his chance to go for the tie with under three minutes to play. Faced with a 4th and 15 and with the game on the line, Carr found Mack Hollins for a 48 yard gain. Newly signed cornerback Terrance Mitchell was beaten on the play.
Things were suddenly interesting as the Raiders entered the redzone, down eight points. A holding call on the Titans bailed out the Raiders on another 4th and 10. Vegas had a new set of downs on the ten yard line with 1:30 left.
Making matters worse for the Titans? Kristian Fulton exited the game with an injury.
Carr took his shots throwing jump-ball after jump-ball — and one finally hit. Mack Hollins plucked it over Mitchell in the endzone, but the Raiders had to convert the two-point conversion to stay alive — and they didn’t.
Kevin Byard knocked the ball away, and the Titans recovered the onside kick.
Final score: Titans 24, Raiders 22.
The Titans tried to give this one away in the second half, but the Raiders couldn’t take advantage. Tennessee needed this one badly, moving to 1-2 on the year.
Tennessee will head to Indianapolis next Sunday to face the Colts.