TAMPA – Round 1 of joint practices between the Titans and Buccaneers went to the Titans.
Round 2 went to the Buccaneers.
Round 3 of the week-long battle took place here at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night, a game that was won 34-3 by the Titans in dominating fashion.
This was hardly a showdown of front-liners from both teams, however, as the Titans and Buccaneers used preseason game No.2 as a chance to further evaluate their back-ups while resting the majority of their starters.
Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, Julio Jones and A.J. Brown were among a big group of offensive starters who didn't play for the Titans, while and Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and Chris Godwin were among those who didn't take the field for the defending Super Bowl champions.
Nonetheless, the game provided valuable opportunities for those vying for roster spots, and opportunities, for this fall.
Running back Mekhi Sargent ran for 78 yards in the contest, and he also scored on a five-yard touchdown catch. Receiver Mason Kinsey led the team with six receptions for 56 yards, and he also caught a touchdown. So did receiver Dez Fitzpatrick.
Quarterbacks Matt Barkley (12-of-16 for 115 yards and two touchdowns) and Logan Woodside (7-of-8 for 64 yards and one touchdown) led the charge on offense.
"We asked our players that weren't playing in the game, they had two choices: Put the unform on and go out and support their teammates, or stay in the locker room," Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said. "You could see that they had energy, and they were excited for those guys that were making plays.
"They were just competitive, and that's a reflection of our team, our organization and the type of people that we have, that late in the fourth quarter of a preseason game guys were battling and competing. That is important to me."
It was another impressive showing from the team in two-tone blue, especially on defense.
Among those in the spotlight: Cornerback Caleb Farley, the team's first-round pick who made his preseason debut with the Titans after sitting out the opener last week in Atlanta. Cornerback Elijah Molden, the team's third-round pick, also played for the first time in the preseason.
It was a pretty good night for Titans kicker Sam Ficken, too.
The Titans jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, as Barkley engineered two scoring drives.
Barkley, who entered the game on Tennessee's third offensive series to replace the starter Woodside, connected with Sargent for a five-yard touchdown toss on a 4th and 1 from the five to give the Titans a 7-0 lead.
"I am loving the opportunity," Sargent said. "I have to thank God just to be here. But I have to credit the guys up front, the o-line, and the other 10 guys on the field. I thought they did a really good job for me blocking and finishing.
"I am just here trying to define my role, earn the respect of the veterans, and just play wherever they need me to play."
The Titans extended their lead to 10-0 on a 48-yard field goal by Ficken, which capped a seven-play, 33-yard drive by Barkley.
And Ficken was just getting warmed up.
After the Buccaneers cut the lead to 10-3 late in the second quarter on a 49-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop, Ficken booted a 58-yard field goal – with room to spare – to give the Titans a 13-3 lead at halftime.
Since joining the Titans earlier this month, Ficken is 3-of-3 on field goals in games, 6-of-6 on PATs in games, and 48-of-53 in practices. His success creates plenty of intrigue at the position, where he's been competing with kicker Tucker McCann, who was injured in the preseason opener.
The Titans extended their lead to 20-3 early in the third quarter on a bang-bang play that came with some controversy.
On the play in question, Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask threw across the middle to tight end Tanner Hudson, and Titans cornerback Bradley McDougal delivered a big hit as Hudson went to the ground. The ball popped up, and Titans cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun caught it in the air and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Officials ruled it a catch, fumble, and return for a TD.
It was one of several nice plays made by the Titans on defense, as linebackers David Long Jr. and John Simon each recorded first half sacks. Molden also stepped up big with a stop on a fourth-and-one, which gave the Titans great field position at the start of their touchdown-scoring drive.
Later, a pass deflected off Molden, and it was intercepted by Titans safety Clayton Geathers. Molden also added a sack. Recently signed safety Jamal Carter added an interception late as well.
It was a heck of a debut for Molden, who was credited with eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss, one pass defensed and one forced fumble.
"It was really so much fun," Molden said. "It felt really special … and it feels bigger than myself to be honest. I just want to give everything to the team. A couple of minutes ago, Ryan Tannehill was (in the locker room) with gloves picking up trash. That is the type of team I want to play for."
The Titans ended up starting eight of their projected starters on defense in the contest, but those players didn't play long, as they gave way to back-ups early.
In two preseason games so far, the Titans have allowed just two field goals while outscoring their opponents by a 57-6 margin. The Titans beat the Falcons 23-3 in the preseason opener last week.
On Saturday night, Tennessee's offense made plays as well.
Barkley performed well in extended playing time, but Woodside stepped up late to lead a nine-play, 76-yard scoring drive that he capped off with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Fitzpatrick, which made it 27-3 late in the third quarter.
"Dez is working hard," Woodside said. "I think a play like that could really flip the script on his season. I was excited for him, and I was fired up for him. I was glad I could get him the ball and he could go score."
After the interception by Geathers, Barkley then reentered the contest and he connected with receiver Mason Kinsey for a 20-yard touchdown to give the Titans a 34-3 with 11:03 remaining.
It capped another impressive night for the Titans.
The Titans face the Chicago Bears at Nissan Stadium in the preseason finale next Saturday.