NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It was a shame fans weren’t allowed inside Nissan Stadium Sunday to see the entertaining game between the Titans and Jaguars, and to see the Titans pull out a second straight nail-biter to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2008.
Fans were no doubt on the edge of their couch cushions as Stephen Gostkowski lined up for yet another big late game field goal. The future Hall of Famer doinked an extra point off an upright Sunday, and has now missed five kicks through just two games, but he’s been at his best in the clutch. Gostkowski kicked the game-winning 25-yard field goal with :17 left Monday in Denver. Against Jacksonville he drilled a more challenging 49-yard attempt to give the Titans a 33-30 lead with 1:36 to go.
The eight people lucky enough to receive an invite into the stadium were still left holding their breath until Jeffery Simmons got his arm up to deflect a Gardner Minshew pass into the arms of Harold Landry to seal a Tennessee win.
Early on it didn’t appear that this game would go down to the wire. Ryan Tannehill hit Jonnu Smith on a beautifully designed throwback on the first play of the game for a 63-yard gain. Two plays later Tannehill hit Smith for a 13-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Titans then capitalized on the first interception in the young career of second round pick Kristian Fulton when Tannehill found Corey Davis in the back of the endzone for a nine-yard score.
Smith took a short pass from Tannehill and fought his way into the end zone for his second touchdown late in the first half to extend the lead to 24-10. It was already the third TD this season for the fourth-year tight end, matching his career high.
But the Titans had to hang on for dear life after halftime. Minshew answering his critics, by building off last week’s 19-20 performance by throwing for 339 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie James Robinson ran for 102 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries as the Jaguars piled up 480 yards on 74 plays.
The Jags ran for more yards and threw for more yards than the Titans while racking up 30 first downs and 30 points against a defense that was again without Adoree’ Jackson at cornerback.
But the Titans kept their composure and came up with the plays they had to have to win. Tannehill helped the offense convert on seven of their 11 third down opportunities, and they went a perfect 4-4 in the red zone highlighted by their QB standing tough in the pocket against pressure and delivering an 18-yard TD strike to Adam Humphries.
Tannehill’s now thrown six touchdown passes and no interceptions through two weeks despite the fact Derrick Henry’s averaging just 3.6 yards per carry while facing loaded defensive fronts. The Jaguars bottled up the reigning NFL rushing champion, allowing him just 84 yards on 25 carries.
But the Titans put up 33 points thanks to Tannehill’s efficiency and the strong right leg of Gostkowski. The veteran kicker made a 51-yard field goal on the final play of the first half after Josh Kalu’s heads up play to stop a squib kick and fall on it near midfield set up a first down pass to Anthony Firkser that got Tennessee in field goal range.
Gostkowski’s final kick was set up when Firkser drew a pass interference flag from Myles Jack on a third down incompletion.
Mike Vrabel said after the game that there are a lot of things the Titans will have to clean up. Safety and defensive leader Kevin Byard said his unit’s tackling and effort were poor. But on a day when teams like the Texans, Broncos and Vikings fell to 0-2, and other teams like the 49ers and Giants were dealt potentially devastating injuries, the Titans found a way to win again.
Even getting to 2-0 isn’t easy in the NFL. It’s been a dozen years since it last happened around here, which just so happens to be the last time the Titans won the AFC South.
And make no mistake; that is the goal for this season. To win the division and host a home playoff game, hopefully with fans in the stands.