NASHVILLE – The Titans on Thursday night proved ready for primetime.
A second half comeback awarded the Titans with a 20-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night. As 69,361 fans watched at Nissan Stadium – along with NFL fans watching on televisions across the country -- the Titans turned in a memorable comeback to edge even closer to their second straight AFC South title.
The Titans are now 3-0 on the season in primetime contests, with wins over the Bills, Rams and now the 49ers.
This was a big one, and it went down to the wire.
"You've got to be willing to take some shots and willing to bleed and be able to taste it and come back swinging," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of his team's toughness, and resiliency. "And that's why it's an honor to coach this football team. The guys care, do whatever they can do. It's not always perfect. They took care of the football, complementary football.
"I mean … we had the funeral for the Titans. You know, it was yesterday or today. But we're not dead yet. We'll come back and we'll play the Dolphins next, right? That's who we got in 10 days. This weekend is going to feel really good. I'm happy our players can rest and recover after getting a victory. Merry Christmas, guys."
Merry Christmas indeed.
The Titans got off the mat to turn in some late-game heroics.
With the game tied at 17-17, with 2:16 left, quarterback Ryan Tannehill directed a clutch scoring drive. His 24-yard run put the Titans in position for a field goal, and then kicker Randy Bullock kicked his third game-winning kick of the season, from 44 yards out with four seconds left.
"It is always really special to do your job to help the team win," Bullock said. "Today was really special for me individually. I don't know if many people know this, but it is actually the anniversary of when I lost my father, so it has a little more meaning for me today."
The Titans tackled the 49ers on their lateral-fest on the ensuing kickoff, and they improved to 10-5 with a win not a lot of folks saw coming at halftime.
The Colts (8-6), who trail the Titans in the AFC South, face the Cardinals on Saturday in Arizona.
A Colts loss would give the Titans their second straight AFC South title.
"Honestly, we don't really pay attention to the doubters," Titans safety Kevin Byard said. "It's been like that since I've been here. We don't pay attention to that type of stuff. We just play our brand of football. We do what we do. Like I said, we want to play games gritty. We want to get games gritty. Make it close, get it to the fourth quarter and we'll wear guys out that way."
Titans receiver A.J. Brown caught a career-high 11 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown in the contest. He'd missed three straight games while on Injured Reserve before being activated earlier on Thursday.
"I feel very grateful just to play football again," Brown said. "It was tough for me to watch them. I really feel like this is my purpose of living, you know, so it was tough. (My teammates) kept saying welcome back in the middle of the game. Keep going, keep going. Keep carrying us, keep carrying us. I was just having fun. Everybody was saying calm down, settle down. I was enjoying myself, not trying to get too carried away. Like I said, I am just grateful just to be back out there and play the game that I love."
Down 10-0 at the half, the Titans staged an impressive second half comeback.
The Titans opened the second half with a 13-play, 55-yard scoring drive and capped it off with a 38-yard field goal by Bullock, which cut the lead to 10-3 with 8:45 remaining in the third quarter.
On the ensuing possession, safety Amani Hooker intercepted 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and returned the ball to the San Francisco 18-yard line.
Four plays later, Titans running back D'Onta Foreman scored on a three-yard touchdown run to make it 10-10 with 7:13 left in the third quarter.
The Titans kept coming.
After a fourth-down stop by the defense, the Titans took the lead on their next drive on an 18-yard pass from Tannehill to Brown, which capped a seven-play, 59-yard drive. The score, which set off a wild celebration at Nissan Stadium, gave the Titans a 17-10 lead with 13:02 left in the contest.
But the 49ers tied the game at 17-17 with 2:20 left on a two-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
Then came the gut-check drive guided by Tannehill.
The Titans got off to a shaky start.
The 49ers jumped out to a 10-0 lead, scoring first on a one-yard touchdown run by Jeff Wilson to take an early 7-0 lead before adding a 48-yard field goal by kicker Robbie Gould midway through the second quarter.
If not for a big turnover caused by the Titans defense, things could've been much worse. It was cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins who turned in the big play, as he intercepted Garoppolo in the end zone to end a San Francisco drive at the end of the first quarter.
The Titans managed just three first downs and 55 yards of offense in the game's first 30 minutes, and they trailed 10-0 at the half.
But the Titans came alive when it really mattered.
The Titans return to action on January 2 against the Miami Dolphins at Nissan Stadium.
"We need to start stacking (wins)," Tannehill said. "I was a good win. It was a good, tough physical battle, which we knew it was going to be coming in. We found a way to win, which is exactly what we believe we are going to do.
"Now we just need to be able to keep stacking those wins."
The Tennessee Titans take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16 at Nissan Stadium.