NASHVILLE – The Titans beat the Raiders 24-22 on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the contest:
Derrick Henry has had bigger games, with more highlight-reel plays. But on Sunday, the Titans running back looked like a man on a mission. Henry ran hard en route to piling up 85 rushing yards and touchdown on 20 carries, including a long run of 24 yards. Henry also caught five passes for 58 yards, including a 23-yard grab. Henry had some tough runs, and he was a battering ram. It was good to see for an offense that will need him each and every Sunday. "I'm happy that I was able to contribute to a great team win," said Henry, who now has 192 yards and two scores in three games. "I was just trying to run hard, finish strong, get north and south and break tackles, and do what I can to help up move forward."
Tale of Two Halves on Offense
The Titans were wheelin' and dealin' early on offense, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions. The Titans also got a nice drive that produced a field goal in the final play of the half, and at the break Ryan Tannehill's numbers were impressive: 14-of-17 for 195 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Geoff Swaim scored on a two-yard touchdown pass, Henry reached paydirt on a one-yard run, and Tannehill scored on a sneak. But the Titans didn't produce a single point in the second half when the team managed just three first downs and 86 yards of offense. "We came out and moved the ball efficiently and scored points early," Tannehill said, "and then came out and didn't execute enough, didn't do things well enough in the second half. So, we'll take a look at it and see what caused it."
The Emergence of Robert Woods
Titans receiver Robert Woods, acquired this offseason in a trade with the Rams, was quiet in the first two weeks of the season, in large part because of limited opportunities. But Woods was a big factor on Sunday as he made four catches for a team-high 85 yards, including a catch of 41 yards. Woods also returned a punt for 21 yards, part of his biggest game to date for the Titans. "Just trying to start fast, being able to be a part of this offense," Woods said. "(Being) able to impact other than blocking and being involved in the pass game. Keep the chains going. Able to bring some energy, when I do get the ball. Fire up our guys and try to just lead by example, lead with the ball in my hands and really just play fast. We've got a lot of weapons. We want everybody to strike and play fast."
Defense Good and Bad
First, the good: Safety Kevin Byard came up with a huge interception in the end zone to end one drive. The Titans held the Raiders to field goals after they'd reached the Tennessee 3, 14 and 17. Linebacker Dylan Cole and Byard each got a hand on the football on the two-point try at the end, and the Titans did a nice job on Raiders receiver Davante Adams, who had just five catches for 36 yards. The Titans held the Raiders to just 1-of-12 on third down, the best under HC Mike Vrabel. The Titans defense limited the Raiders to two touchdowns in six drives inside the red zone. Now, the bad: The Raiders went 3-of-3 on 4th down, Raiders receiver Mack Hollins had eight catches for 158 yards, quarterback Derek Carr threw for 303 yards and two scores, and the Titans had trouble getting stops late. A 60-yard pass from Carr to Hollins (with Terrance Mitchell in coverage) was deflating even before the late score that made it close. Vrabel said the unit needs to be better. "Just the X-plays, the deep penalties, the fourth-down conversions," Vrabel said. "It is really good, and then it's really not very good. We have to figure out what that is, if we're relaxing or what. There are some opportunities in there where it looks like defense, and it looks like we know what we're doing. Then other times there are lapses and we have to eliminate the lapses."
Special Teams Contributions
Vrabel calls it complementary football, which is winning in all three phases. On Sunday, special teams helped the Titans beat the Raiders. Kicker Randy Bullock nailed a 48-yard field goal at the end of the first half to give the team some much-needed points. Who knew it would be the difference in the game? Woods returned a punt 20 yards, punter Ryan Stonehouse averaged 60.3 yards on three punts, including a punt of 70 yards, and tight end Austin Hooper recovered an onsides kick in the closing moments to preserve the win. With a smile, Byard said he had some words for Hooper after he secured the football. "I was telling him to get down on the ground," Byard said of Hooper. "I was like, 'Bruh, get on the ground! Get on the ground!' He finally dropped to the ground. … I'm happy he finally got to the ground."
Finding a Way
It wasn't pretty at the end, as the Titans held on for dear life down the stretch. The Raiders made plays on the Titans, who failed to put the hammer down on a team that could've been beaten by a wider margin. But the most important thing is the Titans found a way to win with some big plays in the clutch, something they didn't do in the season opener against the Giants. Now, as the team begins to prepare for the Colts, they have something to build on. "We got the ball rolling in the right direction, and that was my message all week: Just come out, find a way to win this one game," Tannehill said. "Get the ball rolling in the right direction and build on it."