Woodyard Shakes Off Bad Moment, Saves the Day

David Boclair

Wesley Woodyard has been in the NFL long enough to know that there almost always is another play to be made.

Sunday, the veteran linebacker was an example to his Tennessee Titans teammates of how to move from one play to the next, particularly when one does not turn out as planned.

Woodyard forced the fumble at the goal line with 19 seconds to play and saved the day for the Titans in their 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at Nissan Stadium. Woodyard knocked the ball loose from running back Melvin Gordon on a second-and-goal from the 1 and Jurrell Casey secured it to seal the outcome. Officials on the field initially ruled that Gordon had been stopped before the fumble but a video review revealed what happened and touched off the celebration.

“There was a little nervousness, hoping that the refs would get it right,” Woodyard said. “We saw some calls that went both ways (Sunday). It always sucks … when it goes against you and (this time) … we got that call. So I was excited at the end.”

It was his first forced fumble since Sept. 20, 2015 but the timing could not have been better. Not only did it ensure and end to Tennessee’s two-game losing streak, it took the sting out of a moment he’d like to forget a short time earlier. It was Woodyard who allowed Chargers running back Austin Ekeler to get behind him for a 41-yard touchdown reception, which cut the Titans’ lead from 10 to three with 5:09 to play.

“You have to go and play the next play,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “It’s the greatest example you can probably think of – certainly since I’ve been here, I would imagine – of a guy just coming back and making another play to help his team just win the football game.”

Woodyard is a 12-year veteran who was a backup through the first six weeks of the season. In this one, he started in place of the injured Jayon Brown and was credited with six tackles.

Ekeler was the game’s leading receiver with seven receptions for 118 yards. Almost always, Woodyard was close enough to bring him down after the catch but not close enough to prevent it. Then, of course, there was the one play that he trailed Ekeler all the way to the end zone.

A short time later, though, Woodyard led the charge against Gordon at the goal line and proved the importance of forgetting the bad moments.

“I was excited, especially after getting beat on that one route,” Woodyard said. “As a veteran, I know that’s something I can’t do – give up a big play like that in that situation. But to be able to … just go out there and never quit, never give up, that’s why the game of football is about.”

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