Surging Titans win big on the road in Oakland
The Titans left the Black Hole like a fast-moving object with a lot of momentum.
And the Raiders went up in flames.
On their final visit to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Titans turned in a performance to remember in a 42-21 victory over the Raiders.
The Titans scored a lot, again, on Sunday. The Titans scored over 30 points for the fourth game in a row on a day when quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 391 yards, running back Derrick Henry ran for over 103 yards and two touchdowns and receiver A.J. Brown had 153 receiving yards and two scores.
It all added up to the team’s fourth win in a row, and sixth win in the past seven games. The Titans improved to 8-5 with the win, and the team is now tied with the Houston Texans for first place in the AFC South.
Guess who visits Nissan Stadium next Sunday? Yes, the Texans.
“This is a gritty football team,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said, “that is just fine playing in close games and hopefully wearing people down and making some huge plays down the stretch.”
Tannehill completed 21-of-27 passes for 391 yards in the contest, with three touchdown passes and a passer rating of 140.4.
Tannehill joined Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (three games in 2011) as the only players to complete at least 75 percent of their passes with a passer rating of 130 or higher (minimum 10 attempts) in three consecutive games in a single season in NFL history.
Tannehill also joined Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (five games in 2015) as the only players with four consecutive games with at least two passing touchdowns and a passer rating of 125 or higher in NFL history.
“I’m really proud of our guys, the way they battled,” said Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. “Every time we touched it, we felt like we were going to score.
“This team knows how to face adversity – we have faced it so many times already throughout the season. There’s just a belief that we are going to find a way. We are going to find a way, no matter what is going on to keep playing, keep believing in each other.”
Titans running back Derrick Henry went over the 100-yard mark for the fourth game in a row. Henry’s 103 yards came on 18 carries on Sunday, along with touchdown runs of 10 and 12 yards.
Henry scored his second touchdown of the day with 5:36 remaining in the third quarter to give the Titans a 28-21 lead. The score capped off a six-play, 89-yard drive for the Titans.
Then came back-to-back touchdowns – including one on defense -- as the Titans blew things open.
Tannehill connected with tight end Jonnu Smith for a 17-yard touchdown to make it 35-21 with 14:29 left in the contest.
Barely a minute later, linebacker Jayon Brown picked up a fumble caused by cornerback Tye Smith and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to make it 42-21 with 13:12 left.
“As soon as I picked the ball up, I saw our jerseys, so I knew I was going to make it in,” Brown said. “But when I scored I gave the ball back to Tye because without him that play never would have happened.”
After three quarters, the Titans had already racked up over 500 yards of offense. The Titans finished with 552 yards of offense, the most in the “Titans era.”
It was shootout early.
Tannehill guided the Titans down the field on the team’s first possession, but his tipped pass was intercepted by Raiders defensive lineman Maurice Hurst and returned 55 yards to the Tennessee 21-yard line. Three plays later, Raiders running back DeAndre’ Washington scored on a 14-yard touchdown run to give Oakland a 7-0 lead.
But the Titans quickly responded with an eight-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that was capped off with the 12-yard touchdown run by Henry. Fullback Khari Blasingame made a nice 24-yard catch on the drive, and a 10-yard catch by Smith preceded the touchdown run by Henry to make it 7-7.
On the team’s next possession, the Titans jumped ahead 14-7 on a 91-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Brown, who got behind Oakland defender Daryl Worley.
But the Raiders responded with a long touchdown pass of their own – quarterback Derek Carr to receiver Rico Gafford for 49 yards – to make it 14-14 with 10:43 left in the second quarter.
The Titans then surged ahead 21-14 on another long drive, and another Tannehill-to-Brown touchdown. On a third-and-goal from the 16, Brown caught a pass across the middle and made three defenders miss while bouncing into the end zone to cap off an eight-play, 77-yard drive with an exclamation point.
“I was too close not to score,” Brown said. “I had to get in. I was glad I could do my part and make plays for the team.”
The Raiders had some answers of their own, however. Carr capped off a long time with a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Foster Moreau to make it 21-21 with just 24 seconds left before halftime.
The Titans had a chance to take the lead at the half, but a 42-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop hit the left goalpost and the game was tied at halftime.
Tannehill completed 13-of-15 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns and an interception in the first half, with a passer rating of 130.6. By halftime, Brown had four catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
Then came the game-deciding second half, when the Titans turned things up, and shut the Raiders down.
The Texans (8-5) and Colts (6-7) both lost on Sunday, creating an opportunity for the Titans in the AFC South.
Now, it’s time for what should be an exciting finish to the season.
The Titans face the Texans next Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Henry made an early plea to Titans fans to show up and get loud.
“It needs to be loud, it needs to be packed, it needs to be filled,” Henry said. “We know at the beginning of the season it was kind of rough as we tried to find our identity.
“But we got this thing rolling and we need our fans to back us up. It’s a big game, vs a division opponent, so we hope everybody is there and we hope it is loud. We need screaming and a lot of support because it’s a big game.”