The Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans squared off in the final game of Week 1, and things were predictably hard-nosed and low-scoring — albeit thrilling in the waning minutes as Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski redeemed himself with a game-winning field goal. The laughingstock of the night after four consecutive (one an extra point attempt) missed kicks, Gostkowski sealed Tennessee’s 16-14 victory following a successful comeback drive led by Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, who each had their moments on a quiet night for both sides’ offenses. Drew Lock flashed early and often for the host Broncos, but Denver was shut out for two straight quarters and offered too little, too late while battling several injuries.
Keep it locked right here, as we’ll be diving deeper into the AFC showdown with takeaways from Monday’s battle.
Why the Titans won
Ability to sustain drives on offense
It’s too easy to give Gostkowski credit for this section and he may not be worthy. What really won the Titans the game was their ability to dominate time of possession. Three out of the five Titans drives in the second half went for at least 12 plays and the game-winning drive was well-orchestrated by Tannehill. Henry had a couple of first downs through the air and on the ground and Corey Davis made a clutch catch as well. Cooly and calmly, the Titans marched down the field 83 yards on 12 plays to set up Gostkowski for the game-winning field goal. Thankfully, it was the one field goal he made all night.
Why the Broncos lost
Lack of offense in the second half
Broncos fans may want to point to the fact that head coach Vic Fangio opted to go for it on 4th-and-goal on Tennessee’s one-yard line and fell short in the second quarter, but the reality is that they had a whole other half to play, and they scored less points than the Titans did. Let’s take away that one touchdown drive Lock orchestrated. Apart from that nine-play, 75-yard drive, the Broncos acquired just one first down in the second half before the Titans’ game-winning field goal. Even when they had possession with four minutes left in Titans territory, they went three-and-out and used up just one minute of clock — setting up the Titans for the game-winning drive. The Titans certainly weren’t offensive juggernauts in the second half, but neither were the Broncos, and just a couple more first downs could have been something that put this game away.
Poor Michael Ojemudia. The rookie out of Iowa registered a couple of pass interference calls, but the most important one came when the Titans were facing a 2nd-and-10 from their own 49-yard line on what would end up being their game-winning drive. Tannehill attempted to hit A.J. Brown deep when Ojemudia made contact with him, which gave Tennessee 16 free yards. With a fresh set of downs, the Titans entered field-goal territory and they weren’t done yet. Six plays later, Gostkowski hit the 25-yard field goal for the win.
Play of the game
This is the play Broncos fans will claim cost them the game. Late in the second half, Fangio opted to go for it on 4th-and-goal. Lock tried to pull off a shovel pass to get Jake Butt into the end zone, and second-year defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons stuffed the play.
We knew this was a momentous play when it occurred, but we didn’t know just how big of a play this would be in the grand scheme of things.
The Titans travel back to Nashville to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars, who just pulled off an impressive division win against the Indianapolis Colts in their season opener. As for the Broncos, they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who defeated Daniel Jones and the New York Giants during the first “Monday Night Football” game this evening.
DEN +3, o41.5
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That’ll do it, folks. The Titans hold on for the 16-14 victory. Drew Lock flashed early on, but it was too little, too late. Credit to Mike Vrabel’s squad for pulling out the late drive, working the clock and then trusting Stephen Gostkowski to come through (fourth time’s the charm!). Tennessee was far from perfect in this game, but a win is a win.
Drew Lock, by the way, has the arm strength and the guts to fire a few good deep balls here. It’s not over quite yet.
Gostkowski makes the first of his four FG tries, and it’s the biggest of the night. Titans now lead this one 16-14. Broncos will have 17 seconds to try to make a crazy comeback.
The reason this game was so close? Gostkowski. The reason the Titans won this game? Gostkowski.
Oh man. Tannehill floats one to an open A.J. Brown on third down in the red zone, but the two can’t connect. So it is Stephen Gostkowski time, ladies and gentleman. Can he redeem himself?
Derrick Henry gets some good yardage on the outside to move the chains and keep the clock ticking. Titans now on the brink of the end zone, and Mike Vrabel calls his first timeout with 30 seconds left. Both Tennessee and Denver have to be extremely careful managing the rest of the clock here. The Broncos, remember, need to get the ball back if the Titans are bent on — and succeed in — getting in the end zone rather than kicking another FG.
All I can think about is that the Titans are inching towards field goal territory. What if it comes down to Gostkowski to kick a game winner?
Stephen Gostkowski shown pacing around on the broadcast. Obviously we can’t even begin to fathom what’s going through his head right now, having already missed three FG tries. But the reality is he may be needed here. Under two minutes to go. Titans driving into Broncos territory, down one point. This is going to get interesting.
Drew Lock had DaeSean Hamilton streaking down the left side of the field, open in the end zone, on a third-and-eight bomb. Overthrew him by a few yards. That might’ve put the game away. Now the Titans have the ball back with yet another chance at redemption. More Corey Davis targets incoming?
That’s the second drop from Jerry Jeudy tonight. That drop was the classic looking where you’re going to run before you secure the ball drop. Shows that, even in the NFL, the fundamentals are essential.
Kareem Jackson tips Tannehill’s third-down pass to force another punt anyway. So it’ll be Denver’s ball once again. And the way they’ve been moving on the ground with Melvin Gordon, it’s probably time to start shifting in your seats, Titans fans. Still plenty of time left with the two-minute warning ahead (and all three timeouts in Tennessee’s pocket). But who’s confident in the Titans’ big-play offense right now? That’s probably what it’ll take, unless Mike Vrabel’s defense can force a big turnover here.