Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

Bills Fail to Stop Tennessee in 34-31 Loss

The short-handed Titans scored on every possession of the second half.

By the end of the first quarter, it was clear the Buffalo Bills would not be recording a fifth straight blowout victory.

By the end of the game, it was clear they would not win at all.

Titans 34, Bills 31 in a thriller that saw the lead change hands a Monday Night Football-record seven times and could well impact playoff seedings.

Both teams remain in control of their respective divisions in the AFC playoff race, but the Bills (4-2) fell into a second-place tie with the Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders in the chase for the one and only first-round playoff bye.

Titans running back Derrick Henry proved to be a game-changer, rushing for 143 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, including a 76-yard scoring burst in the second quarter that put Tennnessee ahead for the first time. He also caught two passes for 13 yards.

For the Bills, Josh Allen spread 35 completions to nine receivers and ran for 26 yards, but came up short when he slipped on a fourth-down sneak with 21 seconds remaining. He needed just a half yard to give the Bills a first down at the Titans 2-yard line after coach Sean McDermott decided to go for the win in regulation instead of trying a field goal to force overtime.

On the previous play, Allen made a run for it and thought he had a first down after leaping over a defender and tumbling out of bounds inside the 3.

That final Bills series began with a kickoff return for a touchdown that was wiped out by a dubious holding call on Andre Smith behind streaking returner Isaiah McKenzie.

After forcing a punt on Tennessee's opening series, the Bills drove 74 yards on 13 plays to take the lead on a 24-yard field goal by Tyler Bass.

Read More

Along the way, they showed just how diverse their offense can be. Slot receiver Cole Beasley, who caught just one pass a week earlier, caught two in that first series alone. Devin Singletary also bulled his way forward for a 14-yard gain on his second touch, covering up with both arms to prevent another fumble after already losing it four times this season.

An interception and 17-yard return to the Tennessee 48 by Jordan Poyer near the end of the first quarter gave the Bills another excellent scoring opportunity. It marked their NFL-best 13th drive started in opponents' territory.

They had to settle for a field goal again, however, when Allen's poor throw to Stefon Diggs at the goal line on third down was too low. Two plays earlier, Allen failed to spot an open receiver in the end zone. and settled instead for a 3-yard pass to McKenzie.

The possession also was marred by a holding penalty on Emmanuel Sanders that took a 5-yard touchdown run by tight end Dawson Knox off the board.

Those malfunctions proved especially costly when Henry ripped off a 76-yard touchdown run on the Titans' first play of their ensuing possession. The 250-pound back was clocked at 21.28 miles per hour, the fastest time in the league by a ballcarrier this season.

And just like that, the team that had dominated to that point was trailing, 7-6.

The Bills responded with their first touchdown when Allen hit Diggs for a 14-yard completion to regain the lead as part of a scoring flurry in the second quarter.

Although the Bills went to halftime with a lead in their 15th straight regular-season game dating to last season, they couldn't hold it as the second half proved to be more wild than the first.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.