DENVER – The Titans beat the Broncos 16-14 on Monday night in the season opener at Empower Field at Mile High.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the game as the team begins to turn its attention to Sunday's game against Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium:
No, he didn't have a sack in his Titans debut. But I sure did notice Titans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney a lot in Monday's game. Clowney flew around all game, hitting Broncos quarterback Drew Lock while also being disruptive in the run game. Clowney ended up playing 47 of the game's 59 snaps (76 percent), and he had a tackle for a loss and a QB hit, along with three tackles. Clowney's personal review: "It was fun. (I'm) still rusty, and (I) still didn't know much of what was going on, but just listening. I know what I hear. Getting back in shape is going to be the biggest thing. For my days here (with Titans), with one full-padded practice? I felt pretty good. I was happy with my performance … but it's going to get better from here."
After watching Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski in warm-ups, I certainly didn't expect to see what I saw happen when the game kicked off. Gostkowski, as everyone knows by now, had a near disastrous night. Gostkowski misfired on his first three field goals on the night, and he also missed a PAT. But Gostkowski figured things out when it mattered most. Prior to kicking the game-winner, he took the sock off his right foot because he said he remembered feeling good going sockless during offseason workouts. It worked. Gostkowski put his 25-yard kick through the uprights with 17 seconds left, and afterward he delivered the line of the night. "I would have taken my pants off to make that last kick to try something different," he said with a smile.
Speaking of a tough start to the season, what happened on Monday wasn't what Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans had envisioned either. The team's leading tackler from a year ago was disqualified from the contest late in the first quarter after throwing a punch at Broncos tight end Jake Butt. It was an uncharacteristic display by Evans, who had to immediately leave the field. "It was just basically an overreaction after the play," Evans explained afterward. "A little bit after the whistle there was a little tussle and I ended up overreacting by hitting him... I had the opportunity to apologize to the rest of the guys and basically say I was going to make up for it."
Corey Davis Steps Up
Most of the buzz at the receiving corps heading into the season centered on receiver A.J. Brown, and that's understandable. Brown led the team with 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago, and he was third in Rookie of the Year voting. But on this night, it was Corey Davis who stole the spotlight. With the Broncos geared to slow down Brown, Davis led the team with seven catches for 101 yards despite dealing with a hamstring injury leading up to the game. It earned Davis a game ball.
Big Jeffery Simmons and the Defense
Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons was a dominant force in the trenches. He gobbled up a fumble recovery on a forced fumble from teammate Kevin Byard, and he was also impossible to move when the Broncos tried their ill-fated shovel pass right into the big man's wheelhouse. The Titans defense rose to the occasion on the goal line stand, and it got a big three-and-out late to give the offense a final chance. "It's not just me, all those guys were juiced," Simmons said. "It takes all 11 of us."
Titans running back Derrick Henry was impossible to miss. That's what happens when you're on the field for 61 of the team's 81 offensive plays, and you touch the ball on 34 of them. Henry led the Titans with 116 rushing yards on 31 carries, and he also caught three passes for 15 yards. At some point, I suspect the Titans will take some of the load off of Henry when rookie running back Darrynton Evans, who missed Monday's game with a hamstring injury, is back and healthy. But make no mistake: Henry is willing to play as much as he's needed, and the Titans sure needed him to win on Monday night. Dating back to November 10, 2019, Henry has eight 100-yard rushing games in his 10 most recent games, including six 100-yard efforts in the regular season and two in the postseason.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver. (Photos: Donald Page)