Updated: Oct 21, 2021
In a ruckus atmosphere inside Nissan Stadium, the Titans beat the Bills on Monday Night Football, 34-31.
For much of the first half, the Titans were just holding on. The Titans keeping Buffalo to field goals in the first two drives was paramount as the offense struggled to get much going. According to ESPN, the Bills' chances of winning reached as high as 84% in the 1st quarter, despite the score being just 3-0.
Derrick Henry's 76 yard touchdown kept Tennessee in the game. Despite the Bills largely dominating the first half, the Titans went into halftime trailing by just 3 and totaling just 2 first downs and 165 total yards.
The headline of the second half was the improvement of the Titans passing game, largely with A.J. Brown and the defense's 'bend don't break' mentality. Despite suffering 6 game-ending injuries, the Titans made just enough plays to pull out a win.
Throughout the night, the Titans offense was led by Derrick Henry. He further solidified himself as the best Running Back in the NFL and should certainly be in the MVP discussion. Henry was effective throughout the night and ultimately totaled 143 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 20 carries. His huge touchdown run in the first half showcased his speed while at other times in the game, he used his physicality as he sought out contact on multiple occasions.
Derrick Henry's success cannot be mentioned without giving credit to the Titans bruised up offensive line. After Taylor Lewan suffered a head injury (he is recovering), the Titan's offensive line, which has already struggled this season, seemed to have a very unfavorable matchup against the Bills' top 5 defense. The offensive line did not give up a single sack and had the highest rated offensive player by PFF, RT David Quessenberry.
Not enough can be said about Henry as he continues to carry the load for the Titans. A stacked box allows for Henry to get to the second level and make big plays while less in the box allows for constant 4-5 yard gains. For one of the first times this season, Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing was able to capitalize on the run to open up the passing game. Henry now has 3 games with 125 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns over his last 5 games, no other players in the NFL have had 125 rushing yards and 3 TDs in a game in their career...
Also for the first time this season, A.J. Brown played a big role in the Titans success. Despite food poisoning, Brown was very impactful throughout the second half, making many crucial catches across the middle.
While Tannehill threw for just 216 yards, he avoided sacks, threw the ball away when needed, and picked it up in the second half despite the absence of Julio Jones. When blitzed, Tannehill completed 5-6 passes for 76 yards.
The defense, which ultimately made the play that won the Titans the game, also held up despite injuries.
Titans first round pick, Caleb Farley, who suited up for just one other game this season, was thrown into a very tough situation as Kristian Fulton's injury led him to not only play, but start and defend one of the best receivers in the NFL. Sadly, Farley suffered a torn ACL during the game and will miss the remainder of the season.
Despite playing one of the league's best passers in Josh Allen, the secondary held up well enough. Safeties Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker (highest rated Defensive player by PFF) were certainly among the team's best players and Byard made a crucial interception in the second quarter. Veteran Jackrabbit Jenkins allowed 4 receptions on 4 targets for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns. 2nd year CB Chris Jackson and Rookie Elijah Molden played very solid games in very tough circumstances. Still, corner is a position that should be addressed by Jon Robinson going forward.
Linebacker David Long Jr, led the team with 14 total tackles and is emerging as a leader on the defense. Jeffery Simmons got back on track with a dominant performance which included a sack and a huge stuff on Josh Allen. Harold Landry III, who has been arguably the Titans best defensive player this season along with Kevin Byard, recorded 8 tackles and 2 sacks. Landry now sits at 3rd in league in pressures and is tied for 3rd in sacks with 6.5.
The defense was able to keep Josh Allen's rushing in check which was very important. Allen, who was coming off 59 rushing yard game against the Chiefs was stopped on multiple runs for no gain, including the 4th down which won the Titans the game.
Mike Vrabel's decision not to use the team's timeouts as the Bills drove following the 2 minute warning remains confusing. Even more confusing was the Bills decision to go for it on 4th down rather than kicking a field goal to tie the game but it all turned out well.
A coaching decision I did like was the trust in Randy Bullock and the attempted trick play on the kickoff. With two returners back, the Titans attempted a full field lateral pass which despite it being forward, was a very intriguing attempt.
The Titans found a way to win, something that propelled them deep into the 2020 playoffs. Nobody picked them coming into the game, Bills fans outnumbered Titans fans in the stadium, and the team lost to the Jets just 2 weeks ago but they came out and played a very physical, effective game. As Chris Collinsworth said following the game, the Titans were like "Gladiators taking the field" on Monday.