Yesterday afternoon, the Tennessee Titans overcame a 16-point deficit and kept themselves alive in the AFC Playoff race.
Going into yesterday’s game against the New York Jets, the Tennessee Titans found themselves in a precarious situation. Sitting at 5-6 and within a cluster of potential playoff teams that are essentially vying for one final wild card spot, the Titans didn’t have much hope to cling on to, but with four of their final five games coming at home and three against teams with under-.500 records, things didn’t look too gloomy. But the Titans needed to win first, and for much of the first half, it looked like they might not come close to doing so.
Facing off against backup QB Josh McCown and the sputtering 3-8 Jets, the game started out as bad as theoretically possible for a team that was in a must-win situation. The Titans started out the game with the ball and went three and out. The Jets countered with a field goal drive. On the following possession for the Titans, QB Marcus Mariota regrettably tried to fit in a tight throw to WR Cameron Batson on a slant. Jets CB Trumaine Johnson read it easily, picked the ball off and sprinted the other way for six more points.
Down in a 10-point hole just seven minutes into the game, the inconsistency that has plagued this season appeared to rear its ugly head. Over the next six combined drives, the Jets added two field goals and the Titans punted away twice, with an additional punt attempt getting blocked. It looked as if the Titans had never played football before, but with under three minutes left in the half, the Titans got on the scoreboard and began to claw back into the game. Mariota scrambled twice for 17 yards and completed all three of his pass attempts for 39 yards on the drive, with the final completion being a 12-yard touchdown to rookie TE Anthony Firkser. The reception was Firkser’s first-career touchdown.
Due to the PAT comically being blocked, the Titans went into the half down 16-6. Although everything seemed to have gone wrong, there was still a lot of time and plenty of opportunities forthcoming for the Titans to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Early in the second half, it was more of the same. The Titans went three and out on their first offensive drive and the Jets subsequently moved down the field and knocked in another field goal. After that, though, the Titans offense began to string positive plays together. Following the Jets score, Mariota completed two passes of 20+ yards one of 10+, while Derrick Henry added 16 yards on the ground and a one-yard plunge into the end zone to cut the lead to 19-13.
The Jets responded with a field goal on a lengthy 15-play drive that chewed up 7:18 from the clock and extended the lead to 22-13. But the McCown-led offense completely stalled after that drive. Over the next four offensive drives for New York, they converted just one first down and punted on every possession. All the Titans had to do was retaliate with points, which is what they did on three of their final four drives.
Two chip shot Ryan Succop field goals turned it into a one-possession game with a little over five minutes left, and the Titans got the ball back with 1:46 left in the game and a chance to sneak away with a victory. The Titans’ drive started at their own 14. A 25-yard Mariota run had fans holding their breath, as the signal caller fumbled the ball at the end of the run, though he somehow recovered the loose ball. The Jets had committed a face mask penalty anyway, which tacked on 15 more yards to the end of the run. A 25-yard completion to Firkser and a three-yard reception by WR Tajae Sharpe set the Titans up for a 3rd and 7 situation at the Jets’ 11-yard line. Mariota found WR Corey Davis on a curl route (possibly an option route) for the first down yardage, and Davis was able to will himself into the end zone with just 36 seconds left in the game.
Up four points, the Titans just had to avoid a miraculous Jets touchdown to come away with the win. On the final possession, CB Malcolm Butler — who had made a crucial tackle on 3rd and short earlier in the fourth quarter — intercepted an overthrown McCown pass and put an end to the game.
With the victory, the Titans now sit at 6-6 and are still in the middle of the AFC playoff race. Though the Titans currently sit in 10th place in the conference as of now, their remaining schedule makes them a serious contender for the final playoff spot (and with the Pittsburgh Steelers still to play the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints, there could be two spots up for grabs). The key now is to keep winning games: One more loss and the run could be all but over.