It took the Tennessee Titans more than nine games to score a fourth-quarter touchdown this season.
Nine games and one play, to be exact.
Austin Hooper’s 16-yard reception on the opening snap of the final period Thursday against the Green Bay Packers broke one of the more confounding streaks in the NFL this season. More importantly, it provided the final points – and a much-needed cushion for the remainder of the contest – as the Titans improved to 7-3 with a 27-17 victory at Lambeau Field.
It was Hooper’s fourth reception of the day and his second touchdown. A little more than five minutes earlier, the veteran tight end scored on a 3-yard reception courtesy of a jump-pass from running back Derrick Henry.
The only other multi-touchdown game of Hooper’s career was on Sept. 22, 2019 when he played for the Atlanta Falcons. It also made him the third Titans player – running back Dontrell Hilliard and wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine are the others – with more than one touchdown catch this season.
It was the timing of Hooper’s second that was so significant, though.
Tennessee came into the game with the fewest fourth-quarter points of any NFL team this season. The Titans were held scoreless over the final 15 minutes in each of the first five games and six of the first nine. Once, Oct. 23 against Indianapolis, they got a pair of fourth-quarter field goals. Two other times, they got one field goal apiece.
The Titans were the only team in the league without a fourth-quarter touchdown.
That finally ended when quarterback Ryan Tannehill found Hooper on a first-and-10 from the Green Bay 16. Hooper ran a post pattern and caught the ball between two defenders.
Officials on the field initially ruled the pass incomplete because the ball got pulled out when Hooper went to the ground. A booth review quickly altered the ruling, though, and the Titans had their highest point total of the season and a 10-point lead that ended up as their largest margin of victory for the season.
Tennessee scored more than 100 fourth-quarter points in Mike Vrabel’s first four seasons as head coach (2018-19), something that was not true in any of the other three. Prior to Thursday, their average of 1.3 put the Titans on pace for 23. They’re now on pace for 32.
Hooper finished the night with four receptions for 36 yards after having caught a season-high five passes for 41 yards Sunday against Denver.
He now is second on the team with 21 receptions and fourth with 227 receiving yards.
“For whatever reason, early in the year … there weren’t the catches,” Tannehill said early this week. “We felt good going into each game and had a plan to have him involved. For whatever reason, the ball just didn't find him. We just kind of stuck with that process. He has done a great job of taking advantage of his opportunities and making big plays for us.”
Now, he has made a play no one else on the roster has.