A.J. Brown’s primary focus was to not get hit. Mission accomplished.
The Tennessee Titans wide receiver made it clear Sunday that he will do what is asked of him, but that his role on the “hands” team, used to defend against an onside kick, is not one of his favorites.
Yet there he was, with 2:34 to play and the Tennessee Titans ahead of the Indianapolis Colts by 12, on the field, awaiting a kick that, if the Colts recovered, would make things a bit more interesting.
“They told me to be aggressive,” Brown said. “If the ball is in the air, you have to go be aggressive. But my mindset was to catch the ball and get out of the way.
“It parted like the Red Sea.”
Brown fielded the kick cleanly on one hop and then raced – untouched – 42 yards to the end zone for the touchdown that sealed the Titans’ 45-26 victory and gave them sole possession of first place in the AFC South.
It was the second-year wide receiver’s second touchdown of the day, and it put him in a select group of players who have scored touchdowns on a reception, a rush and a kickoff return since the start of 2019, Brown’s rookie season. The only others to do it are Steven Sims of Washington and Jakeem Grant of Miami.
Neither of the other two have found the end zone as frequently overall as Brown, who also scored on a 69-yard reception against Indianapolis. With eight touchdown receptions and the one on the kickoff return (his rushing touchdown came in 2019), he is one 15 NFL players with at least nine touchdowns this season.
A rundown of the NFL players who have scored at least one touchdown on a run, a reception and a kickoff return since the start of 2019:
|Player||Team||Receiving TDs||Rush TDs||KO Return TDs|
“We trust A.J.,” coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. “When you’re the ball recovery guy, you have to be willing to go in there and take a hit. You can’t block all of those guys, so you want somebody that’s willing to go get that football. And he did. He attacked it, and we were able to get a couple guys over there to shield guys off. And he was able to end up in the end zone.
“I think that those guys you put out there are guys that you trust to go get the ball with the game on the line.
It was not the first time he has been on the field in that situation. It was, however, his first career kickoff return.
“On the sideline, I was joking with Corey [Davis] about it,” Brown said. “I was saying, ‘I’m going to crib this.’ But no, most definitely, I was trying to not get hit.”