NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Adam “Pacman” Jones jumped up and down, waving his arms, encouraging the fans who stuck around to stand and cheer their Tennessee Titans.
He and Vince Young made it worth their while, too, delivering the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history with a stunning rally.
The Titans cornerback intercepted two passes and had a 23-yard punt return that revived his teammates in the fourth quarter. Then rookie quarterback Young finished off an improbable charge from a 21-point deficit to a 24-21 win over the New York Giants on Sunday.
“Wow,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said when it finally ended.
Young ran for a touchdown and threw for two more in the final 9:35 and finished with a career-high 249 yards passing. Rob Bironas kicked a 49-yard field goal with 6 seconds left to win it.
The final minutes felt like a flashback to the national championship game last January when Young led his Texas Longhorns past Southern California. It’s the biggest fourth-quarter comeback by a rookie quarterback ever, topping John Elway’s 19-point rally with Denver on Dec. 11, 1983 against Indianapolis for a 21-19 victory, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“The legend of Vince Young began a long time ago,” said Titans receiver Brandon Jones, who caught the TD pass that tied the game.
“It’s a sneak peek of what’s to happen not just me, but this team in general,” Young said of a club that has won four of its last six in matching last year’s victory total with five games left.
The Giants (6-5) lost their third straight in a titanic collapse, and coach Tom Coughlin called it a “terrible shock”. They fell a game behind the Dallas Cowboys (7-4) in the NFC East going into next week’s game in the Meadowlands.
“I don’t have the words to talk about it right now, and I probably won’t when I see it. We’re going to be sick about this one forever,” Coughlin said.
The comeback topped the Titans’ previous best fourth-quarter rally from 15 points on Nov. 1, 1987, against Cincinnati. It was the biggest in the NFL since Indianapolis came back from 21 down in the fourth period at Tampa Bay on Oct. 6, 2003, and won 38-25.
New York led 21-0 with in the second quarter. But the Giants didn’t score again, and Jones got the Titans (4-7) into the game when he intercepted Eli Manning’s pass with 12:55 left.
Young tossed a 4-yard TD pass to Bo Scaife nine plays later. Earlier in the drive, Giants cornerback Frank Walker drew a personal foul for a high hit on Young as the quarterback ran out of bounds short of a first down on fourth-and-9 in Giants territory.
“Was it a forearm to the head, or was it helmet to helmet?” Coughlin asked. “What was it? That was stupid. It was a bad play.”
The Titans forced the Giants to punt, and Jones almost dared New York to kick toward him. Jeff Feagles did, and Jones returned it 23 yards.
Jones, who has not talked to reporters since Oct. 4, did not speak after the game. His teammates couldn’t stop talking about him.
“To me, this guy is like an arcade game,” Young said. “You see him on the punt return. When a guy is getting tackled, he spins out and makes a play … You can’t coach that.”
Young himself scored on a 1-yard run, throwing the ball into the stands.
Tennessee forced New York to punt once more, this time out of bounds and away from Jones.
Young then drove the Titans 76 yards in eight plays. The big play came on fourth-and-10, when Giants rookie Mathias Kiwanuka had Young wrapped up for a sack, but let him go, only to see him scramble upfield 19 yards for a first down.
“Thank God for letting me loose,” Young said.
Manning, whose shaky play in the past two losses had people questioning his confidence, had his chance to stop Tennessee’s comeback. But Jones jumped up and grabbed a pass intended for David Tyree at midfield.
“A bad decision on my part,” Manning said of throwing the ball instead of playing it safe.
With 23 seconds left, Young looked like a seasoned veteran as he completed two short passes and set up Bironas for the winning field goal. Bironas already had missed a 48-yarder wide right, and this time he had to kick off a bad snap.
But the ball went through.
The Giants had 3 seconds to try and lateral a short kickoff around the field before James Butler was tackled.
Young also ran 10 times for a team-high 69 yards, and the Titans outgained New York 343-287 even though the Giants held the ball for more than 33 minutes.
This loss will only increase the pressure on the defending NFC East champs. Manning was 18-of-28 for 143 yards. Tiki Barber, who had called for more touches after getting only 10 carries in last Monday night’s loss at Jacksonville, had 25 carries for 82 yards. He now has topped 1,000 yards in five straight seasons and six of the last seven.
The Giants seemingly had this game won after forcing two fumbles and turning them into 14 points. Manning threw for a TD, and Brandon Jacobs ran for two himself.
But then came the fourth-quarter collapse.
The Titans had been 1-21 when trailing after three quarters through the past three seasons. … The Titans have won four straight in this series, and they are 3-1 against the NFC East this season. … Giants TE Jeremy Shockey dislocated a ring finger in pregame warmups. He played and had five catches for 39 yards.