Nothing is ever easy for the Tennessee Titans. But they escaped Saturday’s game in pretty good shape, in regards to the playoffs.
It took until late in the fourth quarter, but the Titans finally turned it on and beat an injured, outmanned Washington Redskins team at home. It looked for a long time like the Titans would blow a game that loomed large in the AFC playoff race, but they escaped. All season the Titans have been the most unpredictable team in the NFL, and Saturday followed that pattern in a 25-16 win.
With the Titans trailing 16-12, they rode Derrick Henry to get them near the goal line, then Blaine Gabbert hit MyCole Pruitt on a 2-yard touchdown off a play fake to give the Titans the lead with less than five minutes to go. Gabbert was in the game after Marcus Mariota suffered a stinger late in the first half.
Mariota’s injury will be a topic of concern leading into what might be a huge Week 17 game game against the Colts, one that could decide who will be the No. 6 seed in the AFC. Mariota or Gabbert, we’ll have no idea what to expect from the Titans next week, as usual. But at least they didn’t suffer a horrendous loss on Saturday.
Banged-up Redskins battled hard
Give the Redskins credit. They gave the Titans everything they could handle, despite being down to their fourth quarterback this season.
Washington has been battered with injuries, none bigger than the season-ending injuries to quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colt McCoy. Josh Johnson, who hadn’t thrown an NFL pass from 2011 to Dec. 5 when the desperate Redskins signed him off the street, led a win at Jacksonville last week and almost did the same on Saturday.
Washington had a prudent game plan, loading up 33-year-old Adrian Peterson and chewing up clock. Peterson, in the middle of an amazing season after he was unsigned all offseason, had 119 rushing yards. The Redskins led even before Mariota’s injury late in the first half, and held that lead until late in the fourth quarter. Then Gabbert led one late drive to crush Washington’s upset hopes.
Washington isn’t officially eliminated from the playoff race, but it probably needed a win on Saturday to have a realistic shot going into Week 17. They just were too banged up to finish what could have been a huge upset.
Titans pulled out a late win
Tennessee still had to avoid a scare late. Washington wouldn’t go away easily. Johnson led the Redskins into Titans territory in the final two minutes.
But with 1:17 left, Johnson had his first turnover of the game. He overthrew receiver Josh Doctson, who seemed to give a half-hearted effort on his route, and Titans safety Kevin Byard had an easy interception. Disaster averted for the Titans. Malcolm Butler got a meaningless pick-six on the final play, a Hail Mary throw by Johnson from deep in his own territory, to end it.
After Tennessee’s win, it had to root for the Chargers in the late game. With a Ravens loss, the Titans would get a wild-card spot with a Week 17 win over the Colts. If the Ravens lost and the Colts won Sunday, the winner of Colts-Titans next week would decide the final wild-card spot (and be an easy Week 17 flex game for the NFL).
The Titans being a wild-card team makes sense. That’s what they’ve been for their entire unpredictable season.
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