“Nobody said it was easyyyyyy.” It certainly wasn’t easy, and it definitely got hearts pounding, but the Titans held on to a 13-10 lead and came away with a crucial win against the defending champions. The win gets the Titans to 7-6 and over .500 for the first time this season. Tennessee is now tied atop the AFC South division with the Houston Texans, but Houston owns the two main tiebreakers. With Houston’s win today over the Indianapolis Colts, though, the Titans now control their own destiny because they face off with the Texans in Week 17. Win all three games remaining and the Titans will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Let’s see if they can get it done. But first, let’s recap the win.
The Titans came out of the gate scorching hot. They forced a three and out on the first possession of the game and drove down the field on a six minute scoring drive on the subsequent possession. DeMarco Murray and Delanie Walker were the key cogs in that offensive drive, racking up 57 yards between the two. Murray punched in the touchdown from one yard out and the Titans were quickly ahead.
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On the next Broncos drive, newly signed Justin Forsett got a carry and was stripped of the ball by Rashad Johnson while Jason McCourty recovered it. That forced fumble was the FIRST of the year for the Titans. The Titans couldn’t convert a first down, but they did capitalize with three points after Ryan Succop nailed a 53 yard field goal. Succop has been as consistent as any kciker in the league throughout his Titans tenure.
With the Titans going up 10-0, the defense continued to play freely and with dignity. They forced a punt on the ensuing three Broncos drives, not allowing anything on the ground and forcing a bevy of incompletions. With nine minutes remaining in the first half, the Titans took over with the ball and melted the clock with a 19 play, eight minute drive. Unfortunately, the Titans were only able to get three points after a Rishard Matthews touchdown was taken off the board due to a second offensive pass interference from Walker.
That drive featured some fireworks. Harry Douglas, who keeps getting on the field somehow, took a bit of a cheap shot at Chris Harris Jr. Both were pretty much out of the play, but Harris was running towards the area of the ball and Douglas went low and at Harris’ knees. It didn’t draw a penalty, but Aqib Talib (a Saint himself) took objection to the shot and picked a fight with Douglas on the next play. A large brawl ensued and Talib picked up a 15 yard personal foul, which helped the drive continue onward.
After halftime, the offense fell apart, as has been the case in a lot of games this season. The running game wasn’t churning out huge gains, but it wasn’t getting any help from a passing offense that couldn’t complete a pass for a first down. The receivers weren’t getting open and Marcus Mariota was missing them when they got slight separation. Mariota finished 6/20 for 88 yards in his worst game of the year. Thankfully, the running game and the defense really showed up today.
The Broncos mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter, gaining plenty of yardage against a Titans defense that was gassed. The Titans offense not moving the chains at all kept the defense on the field for the majority of the second half. The Titans punted on all three of their offensive possessions in the fourth quarter. On that third drive, Mariota and Matthews connected on a 26 yard gain that was massive at the time. The Titans had just forced a field goal from the Broncos on the previous drive and got the ball back with five minutes left, and they needed to burn some clock. That completion moved the chains and gave them some relief, but they ended up having to punt it away with 2:26 left in the game.
Then, by some divine miracle, the defense made a play. After coming into the game not having forced a fumble all season, the Titans forced one early in the game and forced a second one on the final drive of the game. Trevor Siemian completed a 12 yard pass to A.J. Derby, who was held up and stripped by Avery Williamson. Daimion Stafford dove on the ball and the win was sealed for the two-tone blue.
Honestly, this was one of the best feelings I’ve had as a Titans fan in a really long time. I was so happy and so proud to watch this team pull this one out. It was a much needed win considering the playoff implications, but it was just as important as a moral victory. This team is in a rebuilding stage. They are coming off a 3-13 season. They hired a historically losing coach who didn’t inspire much confidence. Yet here they are, sitting at 7-6 with a division title within reach on the shoulders of a coach who has proven me and many others wrong. It feels good to be a Titans fan.