Close, but no cigar

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is tackled by Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Nigel Bradham

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is tackled by Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Nigel Bradham

Two weeks in a row the Titans have allowed a game to slip right threw their fingertips. All that was needed was a field goal to win the game. With 1:41 left to go, however, that mere fact wouldn’t come to fruition. Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore picked off quarterback Marcus Mariota to seal the deal for Buffalo, with the final score: 14-13. This was another double digit lead blown by the Titans (1-3) in consecutive weeks, at home no less. They’ve lost both games by a combined three points.

“We’ve got to win those games,” Titans Coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We’re close, but not quite there.”

With numerous Bills (3-2) sidelined by injuries, Buffalo needed someone to provide an offensive boost. Tyrod Taylor would end up being that guy. The Bills played without Sammy Watkins, LeSean McCoy, and McCoy’s replacement Karlos Williams. To add more insult to those injuries, the Bills lost another running back to injury in the second quarter when Cierre Wood was carted off to the locker room with an injured knee.

“We found a way to win,” said Taylor.

Taylor threw for a touchdown and ran for another as he rallied his troops past Tennessee. With this win, the Bills snapped a five game skid versus the Titans.

It looked ugly from the start for the home team when they fumbled the opening kickoff. Running back Bishop Sankey fumbled coming out of the end zone on his own two-yard line, and the Bills recovered the ball. However, the Titans received a huge break as the Bills, who lead the NFL in penalties, were offside, forcing them to re-kick. That could have been disastrous. After that, the Titans settled down and dominated Buffalo, out-gaining them in yards 115-7 and forcing them into multiple three-and-outs. The Titans also had four sacks and recovered a fumble on a punt return, setting up their only touchdown, by running back Antonio Andrews.

Even though the Titans out-gained the Bills in yards and dominated time of possession, that wouldn’t be enough. The quarterback for the other team came through, and in a big way. He did a little bit of everything, speaking of Tyrod Taylor—running, throwing, catching passes. Taylor did whatever it took to ensure his team came out victorious.

“He’s got guts. He’s got heart,” said Bills head man Rex Ryan, who makes Nashville his home in the off-season.

Late in the third quarter, Taylor started the comeback with a 26-yard run. He then capped the drive off by running for a 22-yard touchdown.

Later, he scrambled for 24 more yards on a third and 23 from his own seven yard line. That jump-started an 80-yard drive in which Taylor and Chris Hogan finished off, with Hogan catching a two-yard touchdown from the Bills QB. Before that, Taylor would catch a four-yard pass from Hogan to set up the touchdown—a little tag team action. Tyrod Taylor became only the second quarterback since 1966 and only the fifth ever to throw for at least 100 yards, run for at least 70, and catch a pass. He ended the game with 76 rushing yards.

Former number one pick Mario Williams had a sighting. He sacked Mariota, which gave him 40 sacks in 53 games, since he joined the Bills. That makes him the second fastest to reach 40 sacks in Buffalo behind Bruce Smith.

“Man, it was tough sledding,” said Ryan. Who would expect anything less from these two opposing defensive wizards? Newly acquired Titan defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is in his 57th year in the NFL as a player and coach. He is considered at the top of the list of defensive minds in NFL history. His counterpart, Rex Ryan is equally revered as a defensive mastermind. So this grind-it-out gridiron battle should’ve surprised no one.