For Tennessee Titans, nothing matters more than the result.
So, they gave up 21 points in the second quarter? They trailed by 14 early in the fourth? They had a touchdown taken away by a questionable video review? They finished the game with backups playing on the left side of their offensive line? For the third time in two games, their quarterback lost a fumble when sacked?
All of it– and then some – happened Sunday when the Titans faced the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field, where no visiting team had won in the Seahawks’ home-opener in more than a decade.
The most important thing is that Tennessee overcame all of it in a 33-30 overtime victory that evened their record at 1-1.
That being said, there was much to digest along the way. Here are the moments that mattered from what might have been a season-saving triumph.
The Long Run: Derrick Henry got free for a 60-yard touchdown run with 12:17 to play in the fourth quarter. It was his 23rd carry of the contest and it gave him 135 rushing yards and two touchdowns at that point – a notable combination given that Tennessee was 14-0 when Henry had at least 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a game.
Of Henry’s four longest runs in 2020, three came in the second half. In 2019, his three longest and four of his top five came in the second half. There is no better indication that the two-time NFL rushing champion is starting to get to an opponent than when he gets loose and runs away from defenders.
After the long one, he carried 12 more times for another 47 yards, including the touchdown that sent the contest to overtime. He finished with 182 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries, which made it just the fourth time he has had three rushing touchdowns and more than 175 rushing yards in a game. Oh, and the Titans are now 15-0 when he has 100 or more rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Going deep: The game’s first touchdown was a 63-yard completion from Seattle’s Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett with 6:34 to play in the second quarter. Always a deep threat, Lockett beat rookie cornerback Elijah Molden and then ran away from Molden and safety Bradley McDougald for the score.
Tennessee’s defense showed signs of life, particularly in the second half, but the secondary made it clear there is work to be done to before that unit becomes what players and coaches hope it will be. Seattle scored another touchdown on a 68-yard reception by Freddie Swain, and its first points – a first-quarter field goal – came shortly after a 51-yard reception by Lockett.
Wilson threw for 343 yards in the contest, but more than half of those – 182, to be exact – came on those three plays. Yes, the Titans won this one, but they can’t think they can give up big gains with such frequency and come out on top often.
Getting there: On the third play of the game, a third-and-8 for Seattle’s offense, defensive lineman Denico Autry stopped a scrambling Russell Wilson for a seven-yard gain. It stalled what soon became a fast start for Seattle’s offense, which scored on four of its next five possessions, and kicked off what was a good game for one of the Titans’ big offseason additions.
Much was made about the fact that Autry played relatively little in the Week 1 loss to Arizona, but coaches were clear afterward that they want to use him as often as possible in obvious passing situations. Given the sizable lead the Cardinals had for most of that contest, there were few of those.
Early in the second quarter, Autry registered a sack and a half in a span of three plays that forced another Seahawks punt. For the game, he was credited with three tackles, two quarterback hits and one tackle for a loss, which shows he can in fact make things miserable for opposing quarterbacks, just as franchise officials figured when they signed him.
Hands down: With 7:38 to play in the first quarter, quarterback Ryan Tannehill targeted wide receiver A.J. Brown for the first time. It was a play-action pass that sent Brown deep down the left seam, where he was open. Tannehill’s pass was on target, but Brown dropped it.
That was the beginning of what turned out to be a challenging day for Tennessee’s leading receiver in each of the last two years. Brown was targeted nine times, which was more than any other Tennessee player, yet he finished with three catches for 43 yards. That is a miserable catch rate of 33.3 percent.
Last season, Brown played – and put up big numbers – despite knee and ankle issues that bothered him from start to finish. That gave the impression that he is somewhat impervious to pain. However, Brown has been on the injury report each of the first two weeks of this season and thus far has caught just seven of the 17 passes that have come his way (41.2 percent). There is a lot to like from this game, but it seems reasonable to wonder whether Brown has pushed himself too far physically and if he will need to shut it down – at least for a time – at some point this season.
Kicking it: Their second offensive possession stalled at the Seattle 15 and the Titans were forced to settle for a 33-yard field goal from Randy Bullock, the franchise’s latest placekicker. By halftime, Bullock had kicked three field goals and accounted for all of Tennessee’s points.
Anybody would take touchdowns over field goals every chance they get. Still, if coach Mike Vrabel had known this game was going to come down to a kick, he might have looked for opportunities to allow Bullock to settle in, given that he had been on the active roster for just five days and with the franchise for just over a week.
It was not a perfect debut. Bullock missed a 44-yard field goal in the second half. But with a chance to end things in overtime, he drilled one from 36 yards with 4:45 to play. So, maybe all that work he got earlier in the contest was worth it because Bullock made the one that mattered most.