NASHVILLE – Dennis Kelly said he had an idea what was to about to happen as he jogged toward the huddle.
Center Ben Jones figured it out the moment quarterback Ryan Tannehill stepped in and began to speak.
“Ben Jones gave me a quick look when he heard the start of the play call because he realized what it was,” Kelly said. “It was one of those things where it was, ‘Just don’t screw it up.’”
He didn’t. The reserve tackle reported as an eligible receiver on the fourth play of the second half. When the ball was snapped, he was the only one who actually ran a pass route. Tannehill faked a handoff to running back Derrick Henry and then threw to the 6-foot-8, 321-pounder, who caught it for the first of the Tennessee Titans’ four third-quarter touchdowns in Sunday’s 42-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Kelly became the 10 different player for the Titans – and second offensive lineman – with a touchdown reception this season. David Quessenberry caught one from Marcus Mariota in a Week 2 loss to Indianapolis (Kelly started at left tackle that week) on a play where he was not actually the primary option.
“I learned from the best,” Kelly joked. “(Quessenberry’s) catch was a lot more challenging.”
Leading 7-3 at halftime, the Titans got the ball to start the second half and got creative.
Their third play was a halfback option pass on which Derrick Henry threw incomplete to tight end Jonnu Smith. The Jaguars were called for pass interference, though, which made it first-and-goal at the 1.
That’s when Kelly got his chance. A tight end at Marion Catholic High School outside of Chicago, he had never caught a pass in college or in his seven-plus seasons in the NFL despite the fact that during his three-plus years with the Titans he routinely reported as an eligible receiver and lined up as an extra tight end. He even has been credited with seven starts at tight end.
“He’s come up big for us when he’s played this year, so it was definitely fun to get him a touchdown,” Tannehill said. “I came off the fake and saw him wide open, and I saw his eyes were huge because he was so wide open. He made the play.”
Actually, it was an opportunity to atone for an earlier mistake. Left tackle Taylor Lewan was shaken up on the final play of the first quarter and Kelly replaced him to start the second. He immediately gave up a sack on which Tannehill fumbled and the Jaguars recovered. Lewan returned on the next offensive series and Kelly had to wait for another opportunity, albeit an unlikely one.
“I’ve gone on a couple routes before here and there,” he said. “But that one was the first one for this. … (Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith) and I have always joked about – since I’ve been here – that he would try and get me one. So, it just happened to be it worked out well. … It’s a cool feeling.”