The Titans hosted the Lions in Tennessee’s last (regular season) game at Nissan Stadium Sunday. The Titans reached double-digit wins on the season and stayed even with Indianapolis for the AFC South division lead.
Here’s how it happened…
Detroit won the toss and elected to defer. Watching Tennessee’s opening drives over the past month-plus has been like playing your favorite song on repeat. Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry together marched right down the field with little resistance, scoring on their first possession for the fifth time in six games. Tannehill was 5/5 for 51 yards on the drive, while Henry carried seven times for 24 yards and punched it in from the three to take a 7-0 early lead.
Watching the Titans defense is like when a song you hate is stuck in your head… As predictable as the sunrise, the Lions offense also marched right down the field, converting three of three third-down tries and finishing with a Matthew Stafford touchdown pass to Marvin Jones in the back of the end zone. Lions evened things up at 7.
The Titans struck back immediately; off play action, Corey Davis ran a deep post and Tannehill floated a perfect ball downfield. Davis made the catch and put a couple moves on the defensive back to get by him and into the end zone for a 75-yard score, the longest play of his four-year career. Titans retook the lead, 14-7.
The Lions converted a third-and-three in their own territory to finish off the first quarter.
End 1Q — Titans 14, Lions 7.
The Lions advanced the ball past midfield with some nifty running by rookie D’Andre Swift, but the Titans defense finally got a third-down stop. With tight coverage all over the field, Stafford rolled out looking for any option, but pressure from Harold Landry forced a throwaway and a Lions punt.
The Titans continued riding Henry all the way down the field, as the rushing leader ripped off runs of 12, eight, 13, six, and seven yards (in that order). A pass interference against Alex Myres in coverage on A.J. Brown moved the ball past midfield, and then Henry snatched Myres soul with a vicious stiff-arm. One play later, Tannehill kept the ball on a bootleg and dove for the pylon, getting in for the 17-yard score to push the Titans lead to two scores.
Tennessee’s defense continued to show little resistance, allowing Detroit to drive right back down the field keyed by a threaded needle from Stafford to tight end Hunter Bryant. But at the goal line, the Titans defense came up huge, stopping the Lions on 3rd and goal, with DaQuan Jones punching out the ball and Will Compton diving on it.
Two plays later, David Quessenberry tried to cut-block Julian Okwara, failed miserably, and Okwara flattened Tannehill in the end zone for a safety. On the ensuing possession, Stafford found Jones repeatedly to move the ball, including on a 39-yard leaping grab over Malcolm Butler down to the two-yard line. Swift punched it in on the next play, and Matt Prater missed the extra point, trimming Tennessee’s lead to 21-15 with 1:02 remaining in the first half.
The Titans put a one-minute drill drive together with completions to Brown, Davis, and Jonnu Smith, positioning Stephen Gostkowski for a 48-yard field goal, which he knocked through as time expired. Titans took a two-score lead into halftime.
End 1H — Titans 24, Lions 15.
In typical Titans fashion, the Lions got off to a fast second-half start, working Swift again with a couple completions to Mohamed Sanu (one off a deflection at the line of scrimmage) as well. Detroit even completed a third-and-13 after back-to-back offensive penalties. But on third-and-one from just outside the red zone, the Lions gave it to T.J. Hockensen, who fumbled extending for the first down. Jeffery Simmons pounced on it, and after a Mike Vrabel challenge, officials correctly ruled it Tennessee football.
As Tennessee approached midfield, the drive stalled, but not before two Lions’ defenders left the game with injury. Tennessee punted to Detroit for the first time in the game with 5:58 to go in the third quarter.
In a flash, the Lions were back in Titans territory after starting at their own seven, helped by a pass interference penalty against Desmond King. Stafford got the Lions to the TEN 35 when the defense made a few plays, starting with a pass breakup by David Long. Third-and-10 finally proved to be too much, and Prater came out to nail a 53-yard field goal, cutting the Titans lead to six.
Tennessee converted a third-and-11 with a completion to a wide open Anthony Firkser to get the next drive going. Henry and Davis both went over 100 yards, and the third quarter wound down with the Titans threatening at the DET 36.
End 3Q — Titans 24, Lions 18.
Henry burst through the line on third-and-one for 33 yards down the DET 3 to start the final quarter. On the next play, Tannehill took it in for his second rushing score after faking the handoff to Henry. Henry punched it in for the two-point conversion, pushing the Titans lead back to two touchdowns.
The Lions next drive started with a bad snap, which Stafford was able to corral, but Teair Tart smothered him for a huge tackle for loss (but not technically a sack). The next play, Adoree Jackson made the tackle short of the sticks on third-and-15, a welcome sight. Detroit faked a punt from their own 31, and Nick Westbook-Ikhene made an excellent read and tackle to stop the runner short of the first down. Titans took over in extremely plus territory.
Darrynton Evans finally got a chance to show what he can do on the next Titans possession, catching a deflected screen and taking it all the way down to the DET 5. Tannehill hit Brown for a touchdown three plays later, and Tennessee extended their lead to 39-18 with 9:00 on the clock.
Chase Daniel replaced Stafford for the next Lions’ possession with great success. Daniel completed 3/3 passes on the drive, scrambled 11 yards, and finally handed off to Swift for his second touchdown to cut down the Titans lead back to 14.
Fully in garbage time, Evans took five straight hand-offs and finished the drive with his first career touchdown, a reception from Tannehill, who crossed 30 touchdowns on the season. Kevin Byard picked off Daniel on the next possession for his first of the year, and Logan Woodwide kneeled out the clock from there. Tennessee crossed 10 wins on the season for the first time since 2008 and avoided 9-7.
Final: Titans 46, Lions 25.
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