The Tennessee Titans lost their starting QB and fell behind, but rallied to beat the Washington Redskins and keep pace in the playoff race.
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but the Tennessee Titans came out of Week 16 with their fourth-consecutive victory by beating the Washington Redskins 25-16 at home. With the win, the Titans improved to 9-6 and now temporarily hold the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. They will need either the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers to lose this weekend in order to set up a playoff-clinching elimination game next week against the Indianapolis Colts at Nissan Stadium. There are other scenarios at play, as well.
The Titans came into this game piping hot, riding RB Derrick Henry to two straight wins and holding their previous two opponents to a combined nine points. Going up against fourth-string QB Josh Johnson was a pleasant surprise for a team that needed a victory, but Johnson played about as well as a 32-year-old journeyman making his second start of the season after being with the team for three weeks possibly could.
For the first time in seemingly forever, the Titans won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half. Hoping to make a statement on defense, the Titans sprung a leak on a 3rd and 6 pass play to WR Jamison Crowder that went for 30 yards. The Redskins’ drive fizzled out and they used the big play to get a Dustin Hopkins field goal out of their opening drive.
The Titans offense responded with an 11-play, 69-yard drive that spanned six minutes and 32 seconds and featured a gorgeous mix of pass and run plays. Two 15-plus yard completions by QB Marcus Mariota to WRs Taywan Taylor and Corey Davis set up the Titans within scoring range and Henry capped off the drive with three-consecutive runs, including a one-yard plunge into the end zone. Ryan Succop missed the ensuing PAT; that marked the third time in the past four weeks that Succop missed an extra point.
Both teams swapped punts before the Redskins embarked on a masterful, methodical drive that encompassed 10 minutes and 58 seconds of the game clock, spanning 17 plays and 93 yards in the process. The drive featured nine Adrian Peterson runs, a 2nd and 27 from the Redskins’ own one-yard line, a 3rd and 14 conversion through the air and a seven-yard Michael Floyd touchdown reception that easily could’ve been picked and housed by an unaware Adoree’ Jackson. The score gave the Redskins a 10-6 lead with 4:28 left in the half.
The Titans aimed to retaliate with a lengthy drive of their own before the halftime whistle blew. Mariota was on fire throughout the drive, completing six of his first seven passes and getting the Titans into the red zone. As has been the case for most of his career, though, his high was followed by a crushing low. Mariota got sacked and dragged down hard to the ground; he got injured and never returned to the game with what has been deemed a “stinger”. QB Blaine Gabbert finished up the drive and the Titans got a field goal out of the drive, cutting the deficit to 10-9 before halftime.
The second half started out in excruciating fashion, with both offenses struggling to move the ball with backup quarterbacks. The first three drives featured a combined 10 plays, 29 yards and just four minutes and 45 seconds being taken off the clock. The Redskins and Titans finally got into a rhythm midway through the third quarter, when they swapped lengthy, double-digit play drives that resulted in a field goal for each team and pushed the score to 13-12 in favor of the Redskins.
To open the fourth quarter, the Redskins once again marched down the field but failed to get anything more than a field goal, though they did melt the clock all the way down to 8:09 while extending their lead to 16-12. With the Titans needing something from their offense, Gabbert came through and gave his team the lift it needed. Gabbert opened up the drive by finding Taylor on a 35-yard pass off of play action for the longest play of the day on offense for the Titans. A defensive holding on 3rd and 7 extended the drive in Redskins territory for the Titans, and Henry went 30 yards on the next three plays to get the Titans in prime scoring position. From the two-yard line, Gabbert once again used play action, rolled out and found a wide open MyCole Pruitt in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Down by three, Johnson tried to mount a scoring drive, but on 3rd and 3 from the Titans’ 44-yard line, he overthrew Josh Doctson and Kevin Byard picked off the pass. The Titans ran some clock and punted the ball back to the Redskins with a measly 14 seconds left. On the final play of the game, Butler picked off a deep pass that came up short by Johnson and ran it all the way back for a climactic pick-six that sealed the victory for the Titans.
The Titans defense ended up intercepting Johnson twice and sacking him twice for a total of 22 yards. Henry carried the ball 21 times for 84 yards and a score, while the Titans’ two quarterbacks combined for an efficient 17/25 for 192 yards and a score. Most importantly, the Titans didn’t turn the ball over.
The Titans will now host the Indianapolis Colts in the regular season finale. That game could very well end up deciding the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.