It took an overtime 41-yard field goal from veteran kicker Nick Folk, but the Tennessee Titans defeated the Los Angeles Chargers, 27-24, ending their eight-game losing streak in the process.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill bounced back from a poor Week 1 performance to lead the offense, completing 20-of-24 passes for 246 yards with one TD pass and one rushing score, despite being sacked five times.
Defensively, the Titans battled without two starters in the secondary, and came up clutch at the end of regulation and overtime to get the offense the football to set up Folk’s game-winning kick.
The victory marked the Titans’ first win since Nov. 17 of last season when they won in Green Bay.
“Everything showed today, our culture, the way we’re built as a team. We’re willing to fight for each other,” said defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, who had one of the Titans’ three sacks against Justin Herbert. “You dang right. It felt wonderful, man. We haven’t won a game since the Packers. Today, it’s amazing. Hell of a job by the offense, and granddad on the team, Nick (Folk) going out to make the kick. I told Tanney, you’re our quarterback, man. We’ve got your back. That’s a hell of a job to go out there with that drive and get a field goal at the end.”
The Titans made it hard on themselves early, falling into an 11-0 hole as Cameron Dicker nailed a 27-yard field goal at the 3:46 mark of the first quarter. Los Angeles then got an 8-yard TD pass from Herbert to Keenan Allen, and then went for two, thanks to a personal foul penalty on Simmons on the play that put the ball at the 1 for the conversion.
The Titans were struggling, having already given up three sacks at that point and having their first three drives end with a turnover on downs (from a sack) and two punts.
At that point, offensive coordinator Tim Kelly dialed up a deep pass off play action, and Tannehill fired a perfect strike to Treylon Burks, who turned into a 70-yard catch-and-run to the 5. Two plays later, Derrick Henry, who had 80 yards on 25 carries, found the end zone to put the Titans on the board.
“It was critical. We need that from Treylon. Being able to run through the catch there was fantastic,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “He got over top, the protection held up and Ryan gave him a fantastic ball. We were leaking oil, and we needed somebody to step up and make a play, and that was a huge play.”
Burks said he could feel the momentum swing that came lifting the Titans offense after the play.
“100 percent, you could tell the momentum change and the energy,” Burks said.
It wouldn’t be easy for the Titans despite the lift. The Chargers added a field goal to go up 14-7 but the Titans got a kick of their own from Folk, who connected from 33 yards at the end of the half, trimming the LA lead to 14-10.
Tennessee received the second-half kickoff, then proceeded to go down and take its first lead. Tannehill directed the drive that was aided by a pair of Chargers personal foul penalties – one on Derwin James for hitting Nick Westbrook-Ikhine in a defenseless position, and another on Sebastian Joseph-Day for a roughing the passer against Tannehill. The roughing call gave the Titans a first-and-10 at the Chargers 12. Tannehill then ran a triple-option play, and kept the ball, squeezing into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
In the back and forth game, though, Herbert brought the visiting Chargers back, leading them downfield and finding Allen for his second TD catch of the day on the first play of the fourth quarter. It gave the Chargers back the lead, 21-17.
The Titans punted on their next two possessions, but the defense settled down and didn’t allow the Chargers to add to their lead.
With six minutes left, Tannehill took over at his own 18, needing a touchdown drive. He marched the Titans 82 yards in seven plays, capping it with a 4-yard dart to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine on third-and-goal. The big gain was a 49-yard completion to Chris Moore on the drive’s first play that put Tennessee at the Chargers’ 33.
“Anytime you’re having efficient plays and moving the ball downfield, it helps. When you’re finishing drives with touchdowns, you’re building confidence as a unit,” Tannehill said.
The Chargers had one last chance in regulation and drove as far as the Titans’ 7-yard line. But Harold Landry, who missed all of 2022 with a torn ACL, picked a great time for his first sack of the season, taking Herbert down for an 8-yard loss on third down that forced LA to settle for Dicker’s 33-yard field goal and overtime.
“Honestly it was a relief,” Landry said. “I just needed to get that first one under my belt. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I feel like we just knew what we had to do in that moment. I just feel like we have great leaders on this team that make sure we’re ready to rise at that moment, especially on defense.”
The defense had one more stop in them to start overtime, getting a three-and-out from the Chargers to set up the winning drive for Tannehill and the offense.
When it was over, the Titans had their long-sought win, and evened their record at 1-1 heading into a road game at Cleveland next Sunday.
“We’re not thinking about last year or anything like that, but it’s great to bounce back from the start we had last week and find a way to get to 1-1. It feels good to celebrate a victory in the locker room,” Tannehill said.