LANDOVER, Md. – The Titans beat the Commanders 21-17 here on Sunday at FedExField.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the contest:
David Long Jr. Saves the Day
The Titans defense was just about gassed, on the field at the end of an 18-play, 88-yard drive that began way back at the 11-yard line. Yet here they were, their backs against the wall, desperately trying to hold on to a lead in the closing seconds. The Commanders had it first and goal at the Tennessee two-yard line with 19 seconds left, but back-to-back incompletions made it third down. That's when linebacker David Long Jr. stepped up and saved the day. It was Long who intercepted the Carson Wenz pass intended for J.D. McKissic at the one-yard line. Long said the defense never panicked, and he left FedExField with a souvenir – the football. "It was a relief, man," Long said after the game. "The whole drive they kept making plays. … But at the end I was smiling, saying: 'This is what we are built for. This is what you dream of. Don't panic and somebody make a play and we walk off the field.' It just ended up being me, but it was a team effort."
It was a slugfest early, and the Titans weren't winning on offense. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was getting knocked around, and sacked. The Titans had to do something to slow the Commanders down. Enter Derrick Henry. The Titans running back was a bruiser once again on Sunday, and he hammered away for some big yards throughout the contest, especially near the goal-line. Henry finished the day with 102 yards on 28 carries, and he scored on a pair of one-yard touchdown runs. Henry also caught a 24-yard screen pass that helped set up a score. Henry has posted back-to-back 100-yard games for the Titans, and on Sunday he provided yet another reminder of how lucky the team is to have him in the offense.
So, I mentioned the problems keeping Tannehill upright. Against the Commanders, Tannehill was sacked five times, and the Commanders were credited with 13 quarterback hits. Needless to say, that's way too many. Montez Sweat was a beast for Washington, and during most of the contest he proved too much to handle as he finished the game with two sacks, three tackles for a loss, and four quarterback hits. The Titans, playing without guard Nate Davis, who was scratched after warmups, need to clean some things up moving forward. "Our goal is to make sure we protect Ryan every single play," tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere said. "When we have moments like that we have to get better as a unit, better as a team."
Defense's Ups and Downs
As mentioned previously, the goal-line stand was the moment of the game. It was gut-check time, and the Titans delivered. There were several positives from the defense on this day, as the unit held the Commanders to just 1-of-11 on third down and defensive linemen Jeffery Simmons (1.5 sacks) and Denico Autry (one sack) also made big plays. Outside linebacker Rashad Weaver also had a deflection on fourth down to end another drive. But things weren't perfect here, as cornerbacks Caleb Farley and Roger McCreary each gave up deep balls for scores, and Kristian Fulton was called for defensive pass interference late, putting Washington in a great position to score. Henry, for one, said the defense deserved the credit. "The defense showed fight, and they never gave up," Henry said. "Being resilient, making plays and doing what they needed to do to help us win the game. I am proud of those guys."
More Things to Clean Up
We've touched on some of the team's shortcomings on Sunday. Even in a win, there's plenty to correct. Among the issues that stood out on Sunday – 8 penalties for 69 yards, too many missed tackles, the protection problems, the deep balls allowed, the sputtering offense that went three-and-out at key times when the Titans had a chance to put the game away. The Titans went just 4-of-14 on third down, but they scored touchdowns on all their red zone possessions on a day when they managed just 15 first downs and 241 yards of offense. Titans coach Mike Vrabel knows there's work to be done across the board. Part of the good news on Sunday is the team broke its scoreless streak in the second half, and that score provided the winning margin. "We have to figure out what we're going to do to take care of the quarterback," Vrabel said, "and the penalties hurt us. … We need to be better."
Five games into the season, the Titans are 3-2 and they sit all alone atop the AFC South. Yes, the team has come a long way from their 0-2 start, and the 40-7 loss at Buffalo. This is an imperfect team, and everyone knows it. It's also a team that's shown plenty of fight in recent weeks. The Titans hit the bye at a good time. The team is banged up, needing some key players to come back healthy. A big game against the Colts is on the horizon when they get back. Riding a three-game winning streak, this team has proven it will keep fighting. "I think back to that Buffalo game, when we got blown out and kind of embarrassed on national TV," Titans safety Kevin Byard said. "A lot of people kind of counted us out, saying, 'What's going on with the Titans?' Our culture is based upon what happens when adversity hits and with three straight wins, regardless of how they come. … There are things we have to correct, but one thing I am super-proud of is this group has no quit."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Washington Commanders in Week 5 at FedEx Field.
The Tennessee Titans prepare to take on the Washington Commanders in Week 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Tennessee Titans arrive at FedEx Field for their Week 5 Game against the Washington Commanders.