EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Titans came to MetLife Stadium shorthanded Sunday, there’s no question about it. But that’s no excuse for what happened in a 27-24 overtime loss against the previously winless Jets.
Randy Bulluck’s 49 yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds left in overtime could have salvaged a tie, but the kick fluttered short and left. It shouldn’t have come down to that.
We all understand the Titans wouldn’t be able to replace A.J. Brown and Julio Jones in the passing game, Bud Dupree as a pass rusher or Brett Kern’s Pro Bowl punting ability. But this was still a Jets team with a new coach, a rookie quarterback and an offense that managed to score just 20 points total in its first three games.
The Titans moved the ball. They ran 93 plays and racked up 430 yards of offense. But they struggled to finish drives.
They settled for field goals on their first three possessions, after two sacks and a bad shotgun snap by backup center Aaron Brewer derailed drives.The third field goal of that sequence was particularly deflating because it came right after Kristian Fulton’s interception set them up with great field position.
What could’ve been a 13-0 lead, or even potentially 21-0, was just 9-0 and gave the young Jets life and a chance. Two big pass plays to former Titan Corey Davis sparked an 11-play, 75 yard drive, and Michael Carter’s two yard touchdown plunge made it 9-7.
The Titans appeared to regain control early in the fourth quarter behind Derrick Henry. The two-time NFL rushing champ ran four times for 50 yards on a 75 yard drive that ended with a one yard Henry touchdown. Ryan Tannehill hit MyCole Pruitt for the two-point conversion and a 17-10 lead.
Once again the Titans failed to deliver the complimentary football they so often preach as the Jets tied the game just 1:44 later. The drive started with a long pass interference penalty on Dane Cruikshank, who made early contact with Davis on a deep ball after he was beaten. Zach Wilson then pulled a rabbit out of a hat when he dropped a snap, but scooped it up and then ran around before finding Jamison Crowder for a 29 yard gain. Two plays later Wilson hit Crowder for a three yard touchdown.
Tennessee’s next possession ended abruptly when Tannehill was sacked on third down, one of seven New York sacks on the day - five of which came on third down to stall out drives. Replacement punter Johnny Townsend’s low liner was returned 18 yards by Braxton Berios out to the Jets’ 47, giving them momentum and good field position.
On the very next play Wilson hit Corey Davis on a 53 yard touchdown bomb to give the Jets the lead.
Credit the Titans for not going away. They drove twice in the final minutes, once turning the ball over on downs before tying the game on Tannehill’s two yard TD toss to Cameron Batson with just :16 left in regulation, capping an 11-play, 74 yard drive and sending Tennessee into a road overtime game for the second time in three weeks.
But this time there was no OT magic. The Jets won the toss and drove from their own 25 down to the Tennessee one yard line, catapulted by two big third and two conversions. The first one was a beautiful Wilson rainbow of 29 yards to Keelan Cole along the sideline. The second was an 11 yard pass to Crowder.
Denico Autry, who was excellent all day, did a great job of snuffing out a Wilson bootleg on third down to force a field goal and give the Titans’ offense a chance.
Tannehill shook off a sack to hit Chester Rogers for 19 yards on third and 20 and Derrick Henry picked up 13 on fourth and one, a play in which Javelin Guidry made an outstanding open field tackle to prevent Henry from potentially taking it to the house for another walk-off game-winner.
Henry, who ran for 157 yards, picked up another fourth and two on the drive, and Tannehill hit Rogers again to get the Titans into field goal range. But the drive stalled out. Anthony Firkser couldn’t hang on to a difficult catch down the seam, the Titans took a costly delay of game penalty that backed them up five yards, and Tannehill was barely able to get rid of a pass on third down to avoid a disastrous sack.
But Bulluck was unable to play OT hero again. His wayward kick, sparking a Jets celebration and leaving many Titans players shaking their heads about a game that got away.
There are still 13 games left this season, and the Titans still are the only AFC South team with two wins. But this is a team trying to take the next step, beyond just being a division champion. True Super Bowl contenders don’t lose games like Sunday. They find a way to put the Jets away.
The Titans couldn’t do that. There’s too much inconsistency in all phases and a growing list of injuries after several more players went down Sunday.
And that’s cause for even more concern than just Sunday’s result.