Six Things That Stood Out

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Six Things That Stood Out for the Titans in Sunday's Win Over the Broncos

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NASHVILLE – The Titans beat the Broncos 17-10 on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.

Here's a look at six things that stood out in the contest:

Relentless Defense

The performance of the defense was incredible on a day when the Titans played without five starters (DL Jeffery Simmons, OLB Bud Dupree, ILB Zach Cunningham, CB Kristian Fulton, S Amani Hooker). Others rose to the occasion as the defense tallied six sacks and a mind-boggling 18 QB hits. DeMarcus Walker (1.5), Rashad Weaver (1.5), Mario Edwards (1), Naquan Jones (1) and Dylan Cole (1) all tallied sacks, and cornerback Terrance Mitchell intercepted Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson at the end. The Titans held the Broncos scoreless in the second half as Wilson ran for his life. "Coach Vrabel emphasizes us fighting, and us being able to take care of the little things, take care of the details," said Jones. "No one is ever going to quit on this team – we are always going to fight. And we did that today."

NWI A-OK

Receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine stepped up big for the Titans. One game after the Titans receivers faced criticism after being held without a catch in Kansas City, Westbrook-Ikhine caught five passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Westbrook-Ikhine made a tough catch on his nine-yard snag from Tannehill, and he also scored on a 63-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker. He was big for the Titans when it mattered. "I feel like we made the plays we needed to make, ignored all the noise, and we came out here and played football," Westbrook-Ikhine said. "I'm glad I was able to do my part to help the team today."

Tannehill's Return

The Titans got their starting quarterback back, and Ryan Tannehill came through when the team needed him. Tannehill, who missed the past two weeks with an ankle injury, was slow out of the starting gate. But he showed some guts and made some big throws in clutch situations. Tannehill completed 19-of-36 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the game, and he also had an 11-yard run on a much-needed touchdown drive at the end of the first half. Tannehill completed a big third-down touchdown pass to Westbrook-Ikhine to end that drive, and he also executed the flea-flicker with a bomb to NWI. Tannehill made some big throws late, too, as the Titans surged ahead. "Things were ugly early," Tannehill said, "but guys hung with me and kept battling and we found a way to start making some plays and take advantage of some looks we were getting and made some big plays down the stretch when we needed it."

Mistakes

Let's face it – the Titans were fortunate their opponent on Sunday was a listless Broncos team. Denver is scrappy on defense, and they play with grit. But the Titans made things even harder on themselves because of mistakes, especially on offense. Go ahead and question Todd Downing's fourth quarter play call involving back-up QB Malik Willis, but Willis has to be able to execute that play without fumbling. The Titans made a number of blunders in this one, from drops by Geoff Swaim, Robert Woods and Derrick Henry to nine penalties for 60 yards. Some of the penalties were mental errors, like lining up offsides. The Titans are going to have to be better, because some much tougher opponents are on the horizon. "(We) just have to continue to focus, continue wanting to get better as a team in all three phases," Henry said. "Just try and get better each and every day."

Special Teams

Take a bow, punter Ryan Stonehouse. The Titans punter was a game-changer on Sunday as he punted eight times for 432 yards, including punts of 64, 66 and 66 yards. Stonehouse put three punts down inside the 10 – at the four, six and eight-yard line – while averaging 54.0 yards, and a 47.3-yard net. "I've told you this for a while," Coach Mike Vrabel said. "That's got to be a strength of our team – I feel like we have the ability to be the best punt team in the NFL, the way that Stoney hits them and guys going down there. … Guys get excited because they know the ball is going to be in the air for a long time and they can go down there … and guys would have an opportunity to make some plays." Cole made a huge hit on coverage, and Vrabel also gave a shout-out to another player I'll mention in the next section. There was a not-so-great development here: Kicker Randy Bullock was injured in warm-ups, which limited his availability on Sunday and has his status for Thursday's game at Greey Bay in question.

Stepping Up

Across the board, Titans stepped up and made plays, from Edwards (1 sack, 4 QB hits) to Walker (1.5 sacks, 3 QB hits) to NWI, with his two big TD catches. Mitchell's pick sealed it, but he also led the team with eight tackles and three passes defensed on a day when the team was without Fulton. Linebacker Monty Rice (7 tackles) took advantage of his extra work, and on offense a pair of tight ends made big plays later – Austin Hooper had two big third-down catches, and rookie Chig Okonkwo provided a 41-yard grab. Another guy who deserves some props, as Vrabel pointed out – C.J. Board, who averaged 12.8 yards a return, including a long of 17, while also doing a good job covering punts. "I had a lot of fun out there," said Board, called up from the practice squad on Saturday. "I am thankful they gave me an opportunity to do so, and hopefully I'll continue to get to do that."

The Tennessee Titans take on the Denver Broncos in Week 10 at Nissan Stadium.

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