The Tennessee Titans defeated the Buffalo Bills on Monday night, gutting out a 34-31 win by stopping Buffalo on fourth down with just 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for us, all five of our Titans to watch had big games on Monday Night Football.
Here’s how our focal points of the opposition performed in victory.
QB Ryan Tannehill
For much of the game, Tannehill was horrendous. In the first half, he was 4-of-12 for 71 yards. One of those completions was a freak play where Tannehill doinked a ball off Micah Hyde’s head that Julio Jones caught while diving out of bounds. That accounted for 48 of Tannehill’s passing yards. He had thrown an interception to Jordan Poyer, as well. In the second half, though, Tannehill was nearly unstoppable, as Tennessee remembered that play-action passing is really effective when you have the world’s best running back. Tannehill was 14-of-17 in the second half, throwing for 145 yards in the final two quarters. Tannehill also added a four-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter off a read-option play.
RB Derrick Henry
The Bills just couldn’t stop Henry, as the monster running back had an evening fit for a Yautja. He broke loose on a 76-yard touchdown run in the second quarter—a burst that accounted for nearly all of his 96 first-half yards, and he added two more rushing touchdowns in the second half. Henry was also effective in limited chances as a receiver, as he caught two passes for 13 yards. One of those grabs was a nine-yard swing pass that brought the Titans ever closer to the end zone. While the Bills were able to contain Henry for much of the night, it was the huge plays that killed them. Then once he had the ball inside the ten-yard line, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion Henry would score.
WR A.J. Brown
In the first half, the Bills shut out Tennessee’s top wideout. Brown was only targeted once, and he didn’t catch the pass. In the second half, though, he was able to find some room to operate. Brown caught seven passes on eight targets for a total of 91 yards, as he devastated the Bills on crossing routes off of play-action passes for the entire second half. With Buffalo’s linebackers committing hard to stopping Henry after allowing the long touchdown run, there was plenty of space in the intermediate middle of the field to operate. Tannehill and Brown took full advantage.
EDGE Harold Landry III
The pass-rush specialist was a one-man wrecking crew along the defensive line and given that his teammate, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, was also a one-man wrecking crew on Monday night, you can see the problem the Bills had along the offensive line. Josh Allen was under plenty of duress, as he took three sacks and was hit eight additional times. Landry III had two of those sacks, adding a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, and eight total tackles to his outstanding game.
S Kevin Byard
We said that he’d need to be assignment-sound all night long, and aside from one blown coverage on a ridiculous 29-yard touchdown from Josh Allen to Cole Beasley, Byard was just that. He hauled in an interception on a tipped pass that set Tennessee up with fantastic field position in the second quarter, returning it 16 yards to the Buffalo 11-yard line. Byard only had two tackles and one pass breakup, but that interception was one of the key plays of the game. What followed was obviously important, as well. When Buffalo intercepted Tannehill, they were only able to come away with a field goal. When Tennessee intercepted Allen, they came away with a touchdown. I’m no math expert, but that’s plus-four points in a game that was decided by only three points. To say that Byard’s interception and Tennessee’s subsequent score was a turning point in the contest would not be overstating the importance of that play.