Tannehill returns, throws 2 TD passes as Titans beat Broncos

Tennessee Titans safety Joshua Kalu (28) breaks up a pass intended for Denver Broncos wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (16) during the first half of an NFL game on Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.

The Tennessee Titans (6-3) hosted the Denver Broncos (3-6) Sunday afternoon in front of 69,240 at Nissan Stadium as they looked to get back to their winning ways and did just that by claiming a 17-10 victory.

The Titans fell short last week on Sunday night in overtime 20-17 on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos meanwhile were coming off their bye week after claiming a 21-17 victory Sunday Oct. 30 over the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. Sunday’s game saw quarterback Ryan Tannehill return after being out the last couple weeks with an ankle injury and he was admittedly a little soar after their victory over Denver.

“Definitely didn’t feel better, but things were ugly early, guys hung with me and kept battling and we just found a way to start making some plays, take advantage of some looks that we were getting and made some big plays, especially there down the stretch when we needed,” Tannehill said.

The first half was very defensive on both sides with neither team able to score in the first quarter as the defense for each side came up with big stops when needed to prevent the other from even getting into field goal range. In the second quarter, it was Denver opening the scoring with a pass deep from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver Jalen Virgil, who took it into the end zone for a 66-yard play. Brandon McManus converted the PAT, and the Broncos took a 7-0 lead with 8:21 to go in the second quarter. The Broncos would extend their lead on a 39-yard field goal with 2:23 left to go in the first half to make it 10-0.

Tennessee put points on the scoreboard when Tannehill completed a pass to wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikine for nine yards and Randy Bullock converted the PAT to make it 10-7 Denver with 12 seconds left in the first half, and the teams would go to the locker room with the Broncos holding a three-point lead.

In the third quarter, the Titans took the lead when Tannehill completed a pass deep to the right to Westbrook-Ikine who rushed into the end zone for a 63-yard play and Bullock converted the PAT for a 14-10 lead with 5:14 left in the quarter. That would do it for the third quarter the Titans took their four-point lead into the fourth. The fourth quarter saw the Titans explode late on a 41-yard play on a pass from Tannehill to tight end Chig Okonkwo to set them up at the 39. A few plays later Bullock would attempt a 35-yard field goal and extend the Titans’ lead to 17-10 with 2:59 left in the second half. On the Broncos following possession the Titans defense gave them a tough outing, but they were able to march into field goal range with under a minute left. But then the Titans defense sacked Wilson for a loss of nine yards with 30 seconds left. With 11 seconds left, the Titans intercepted Wilson to seal the victory when Terrance Mitchell snagged it in front of the end zone.

When it was clear that the Broncos’ defense was going to be able to slow down running back Derrick Henry, the Titans went to their pass game with Ryan Tannehill and head coach Mike Vrabel said they were able to make some big plays. However, Vrabel said they have to be able to get Henry going.

“Today was tough sledding and we’ll have to get the back going in unison with the line and making good decisions and all those things,” Vrabel said.

But in talking about Tannehill’s performance, Vrabel said he thought he hit some big throws and with that, Tannehill spoke on Henry being slowed down and having to make big plays and his teammates sticking with him as the game went on.

“We had opportunities early in the pass game, I just wasn’t good enough and kind of stuck with it,” Tannehill said. “They were one upping us a lot in personnel, so the run game was tough, I felt like we kept battling and were able to increase a few runs and then get some efficient runs, which was good, but there’s going to be opportunities in the pass game, and we finally got things going and took advantage of them.”

Vrabel spoke postgame about the team’s overall performance and the effort they made, but also noted that he thinks it took time for players to get over going on the road last week, laying it all out on the line and coming up short in overtime.

“For us to go out there and keep battling in all three phases, I thought they never quit, and they try to pick each other up and support each other and when the offense needed a play, the defense was able to come and help,” Vrabel said.

Going into their next game Thursday night when they hit the road to take on the Green Bay Packers with kickoff set for 7:15 p.m. Vrabel said he thinks they can be at their best if they can start to complement some runs, play passes, but that they just have to be able to sustain some drives.

“The coaches, we’ve tried to do a little bit of preparation on Green Bay, I think we have to, hopefully the players can get some rest,” Vrabel said.

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