The rookie first-round draft pick has the Tennessee Titans (8-7), who started the season with five straight losses, alive in the AFC playoff race entering the final weekend after rallying them to a 30-29 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The doubters have motivated Young all season long.
“That’s all you heard all season, that a rookie’s not going to be able to do this and that,” Young said. “And I took that as, `Hey, let’s show the world that you can do that.”’
Young threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another to engineer his fourth comeback in the fourth quarter or overtime. This time, he helped Tennessee overcome a 29-20 deficit in the final 12 minutes. After hitting Brandon Jones for a 29-yard touchdown pass, Young engineered a 14-play, 75-yard drive, which Rob Bironas capped with a 30-yard field goal with 2:10 left.
Young’s most electrifying play came at the end of the first half, when he scored on a 36-yard keeper on a fourth-and-2.
The loss knocked the Bills out of playoff contention, dropping Buffalo to 7-8.
“This loss really hurts,” said linebacker London Fletcher, whose team entered the game having won five of seven. “We had everything fall into place the way you want it to fall. We played a home game in a situation where you have to beat a team. And we just didn’t get the job done.”
Young improved to 8-4 as a starter and has led the Titans to six straight wins as they attempt to become the first NFL team to qualify for the playoffs after starting the season 0-5.
Tennessee still needs help, and must win its season finale when it hosts New England next weekend.
“Every week he does something to amaze me,” Jones said. “I can’t believe some of the things that he does.”
It was a wild, back-and-forth contest, featuring seven lead changes.
The Bills had a chance to pull it out but failed in the final minute.
Facing fourth-and-5 at the Titans 28, J.P. Losman scrambled out of trouble and threw a desperation pass that was intercepted by Reynaldo Hill at the goal line. On the play, the Bills elected against a field goal. They were driving into a wind that was gusting up to 20 mph.
Losman finished 19-of-33 for 266 yards and a touchdown, but threw two interceptions. Willis McGahee had 95 yards rushing and a touchdown.
“All we wanted was an opportunity,” said Bills receiver Lee Evans. “It came down to the end of the game and, defensively, they made more plays than we did offensively.”
The game turned after Rian Lindell, with a career-tying fifth field goal, put the Bills ahead 29-20 late in the third quarter.
Young took over and led the Titans on a nine-play, 62-yard march, which he capped by hitting a wide-open Jones over the middle at the 10. Jones eluded Terrence McGee, who slipped on the play, and ran it in for a 29-yard reception.
After the Bills went three-and-out, the Titans turned to running back Travis Henry in a drive that ate up 7:15 and, more significant, produced the winning points.
Henry had 41 yards on eight carries during the drive, and finished with 135 yards rushing while facing his former team for the first time since being traded to Tennessee in 2004.
More surprising is that Henry arrived in Buffalo late after he missed the Titans flight on Saturday.
“I was home just chilling and I got a call from a teammate like they were going to leave,” Henry said, noting he had misread the Titans’ travel schedule. “I got on the first flight that was available and I had to connect through Charlotte. … It was crazy.”
Young laughed when asked about Henry’s late arrival.
“He’s got a lot of money to book him another flight,” Young said. “He got here, no problems, and went out there and played the game.”
With six straight wins, Young moved into a tie for third with Pittsburgh’s Mike Kruzcek, for the longest streak among rookie NFL quarterbacks. … Losman has 12 touchdown passes in his past eight games, eight of them for 20 yards or longer after he hit Evans for a 37-yarder on Sunday. … Bironas hit all three field-goal attempts for Tennessee, including a tough 42-yarder into the wind.