“All the credit goes to the players for sticking together to executing the plan to going from Zoom meetings to driving into the building to leaving the building and going back and forth …. I’m never going to question this football team,” Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said. “I’m never going to question the effort. I’m never going to go into a game questioning how we’re going to do. I expect us to win and play with great effort.”
The Titans’ coronavirus issues caused the league to postpone their previous game and push this game back from Sunday. That created the NFL’s first Tuesday game since 2010 and only the second since 1946. The Titans last had played a game Sept. 27.
“Honestly I felt really good coming in,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “There was great energy in the locker room. I think guys were excited to go out and play. It’s been a long couple of weeks, ups and downs: We’re playing. We’re not playing. We’re practicing. We’re not practicing. Zoom. In the building. Out of the building. It’s just been a roller coaster in every which way. But our guys believe in each other. We stuck to the process …. We felt prepared.”
There was no way for most others to know what to expect, but the Titans made it work. Tannehill threw for three touchdowns, two of them to tight end Jonnu Smith, and ran for another. Tailback Derrick Henry added two rushing touchdowns. Cornerback Malcolm Butler had two interceptions of passes by Bills quarterback Josh Allen to set up two of the Tennessee touchdowns. The Titans upped their record to 4-0 and handed the Bills, now 4-1, their first loss of the season.
“I learned a long time ago the definition of a pro is they make the hard look easy,” Vrabel said. “So whatever situation we’re presented with, we’ve got to all come together and make the best decision for the team each and every time. Our coaches and our players prepared, and the players responded.”
Vrabel once was a respected player for the New England Patriots during their dynasty. Now he’s becoming one of the league’s better head coaches. He led the Titans to the AFC championship game last season. Now he has had to lead them through this season’s complicated issues, and he announced after Tuesday’s triumph that every member of the organization would receive a game ball.
“You don’t all of a sudden galvanize when things are bad,” Vrabel said in a video news conference. “I think that that’s a testament to these players and what we’ve tried to build here. You don’t always say, ‘Oh, there’s a [mess]. We better galvanize.’ You stay tight throughout, and then you hope that the fundamentals and your core beliefs and core values can take over when things get difficult.”
The Titans have had 24 members of their organization, including 13 players, test positive for the coronavirus since Sept. 24. Their facility was closed for 11 days before reopening Saturday. The building was closed again temporarily after another positive test was returned Sunday morning. The Titans were allowed by the NFL to conduct an outdoor practice later Sunday. But the playing of this game was not certain until the Titans had no positive tests returned Tuesday morning.
“Saturday was a walk-through,” Tannehill said. “Sunday, we were able to get closer to live speed. We had coaches playing some [defensive back] spots so it wasn’t quite full action there. Monday was a day-before-the-game walk-through.”
The league and the NFL Players Association have been reviewing the Titans’ outbreak. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier Tuesday that review was not about potential disciplinary measures but about safety. CBS said on its broadcast that it had been told by Goodell that no one on the Titans had willingly violated protocols. But Titans players said they’d noted the comments by outsiders that the team should face discipline or even be forced to forfeit games.
“We were under a lot of heat,” Tannehill said. “Honestly I didn’t quite understand it why we were under such heat. But we stuck together, believed in each other and knew that guys in our building, on our team were all we needed.”
If the Titans were upset and motivated, it showed in their play. Henry knocked Bills cornerback Josh Norman completely off his feet with a shove to Norman’s shoulder on a first-half run, much to the delight of those on the Tennessee sideline and the fans in the stands.
“Personal things that were said against our team [and] our guys really felt uncalled for,” Tannehill said. “So yeah, we were getting a little ticked off about how we’ve been treated, how we’ve been looked at over the past couple weeks. We really just stuck together through that process and believed in each other and wanted to come out and play our game.”
October 13, 2020 at 9:59 PM EDT
Titans keep adding on
By Mark Maske
The Titans are pouring it on. Ryan Tannehill threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jonnu Smith after the Titans recovered fumble on the kickoff. It was Tannehill’s third touchdown pass of the night and Smith’s second touchdown catch. The only issue was whether Tannehill had crossed the line of scrimmage before releasing the pass but the touchdown was not overturned on the replay review. (Titans 42, Bills 16 with 1:59 left in the 4th quarter)
October 13, 2020 at 9:44 PM EDT
Derrick Henry’s second rushing touchdown likely seals the outcome
By Mark Maske
The Titans probably have put this game away. Tailback Derrick Henry provided his second rushing touchdown of the night on a nine-yard run. (Titans 35, Bills 16 with 3:57 left in the 4th quarter)
October 13, 2020 at 9:30 PM EDT
Bills not done yet as Josh Allen throws touchdown pass
By Mark Maske
The Bills aren’t surrendering quite yet. Josh Allen, with plenty of time to throw in the pocket, drifted to his left and zipped a throw to tailback T.J. Yeldon in the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown pass. The Bills failed on a two-point conversion attempt. (Titans 28, Bills 16 with 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter)
October 13, 2020 at 9:15 PM EDT
Another Malcolm Butler interception leads to another Titans’ touchdown
By Mark Maske
For the second time of the night, the Titans have converted an interception by cornerback Malcolm Butler of a Josh Allen pass into a touchdown. This time, Ryan Tannehill threw a four-yard scoring pass to tight end Jonnu Smith after the Titans had to travel only 12 yards following Butler’s 68-yard return. The Buffalo defense nearly forced a field goal but handed the Titans a first down with a roughing-the-passer penalty on a third-down incompletion thrown by Tannehill. Allen had been on the fringes of the league MVP conversation but he and the Bills are struggling mightily so far in this game. (Titans 28, Bills 10 with 1:49 left in the 3rd quarter)
October 13, 2020 at 8:46 PM EDT
Ryan Tannehill’s touchdown run caps Titans’ crisp first half in return from layoff
By Mark Maske
By the time this night is over, it’s possible that no NFL coach will ever be allowed to drone on again about the need for a good week of practice.
The Titans, playing for the first time since Sept. 27 after suffering the first coronavirus outbreak on an NFL team, have looked great in their return to the field and took a 21-10 lead over the Bills into the second half in a meeting of unbeaten teams in Nashville.
It was difficult to know what to expect in the NFL’s first Tuesday game in 10 years and only the second since 1946. The game had been pushed back from Sunday and it wasn’t certain that it would be played until the Titans had no positive coronavirus tests in the results returned Tuesday morning. Their facility was closed for 11 days before reopening Saturday, then was closed again Sunday morning when another positive test result was returned. But the Titans were allowed to conduct an outdoor practice Sunday afternoon.
No practice? No matter. They gave an extremely crisp performance in the first half, capped by quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s 10-yard touchdown run 16 seconds before the break.
Tannehill completed 13 of 18 first-half passes. He threw an early touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Brown and tailback Derrick Henry provided a one-yard touchdown run. Henry also delighted the Titans’ sideline and the fans in the stands when he sent Bills cornerback Josh Norman flying with a shove to Norman’s shoulder on a run. It was a rough first half for Norman, who was victimized by a double move on Brown’s touchdown and had a pass interference penalty on the Titans’ late touchdown drive.
The Bills got a touchdown on a three-yard run by wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie on a short forward flip by quarterback Josh Allen. Kicker Tyler Bass added a field goal. But Allen threw a tipped-ball interception to set up Tennessee’s opening touchdown. (Titans 21, Bills 10 at halftime)
October 13, 2020 at 8:15 PM EDT
Derrick Henry plows over Josh Norman, Titans opt against long field goal and punt
By Mark Maske
Titans tailback Derrick Henry provided a highlight when he reached out and shoved Bills cornerback Josh Norman on a run and knocked Norman off his feet, much to the delight of the fans in the stands in Nashville and those on the Tennessee sideline. But it led to nothing as the Titans punted on that drive. Coach Mike Vrabel opted against a 55-yard field goal attempt, took a delay-of-game penalty and sent on the punt team. (Titans 14, Bills 10 with 3:55 left in the 2nd quarter)
October 13, 2020 at 7:59 PM EDT
Bills get closer with field goal
By Mark Maske
The Bills again replied to a Tennessee touchdown, but this time with only a field goal. Kicker Tyler Bass connected from 43 yards. (Titans 14, Bills 10 with 8:35 left in the 2nd quarter)
October 13, 2020 at 7:55 PM EDT
Derrick Henry’s touchdown puts Titans back in front
By Mark Maske
The Titans look very good early in this game, even with the layoff. They’re back in the lead after a one-yard touchdown run by tailback Derrick Henry early in the second quarter. The Titans had to move only 30 yards after a 40-yard punt return by Kalif Raymond. They were pushed back by an offensive pass interference penalty but Raymond had a 20-yard catch for a first down on a third-and-20 play. (Titans 14, Bills 7 with 13:54 left in the 2nd quarter)
October 13, 2020 at 7:34 PM EDT
Bills respond with game-tying touchdown
By Mark Maske
The Bills answered the Titans’ touchdown with one of their own. Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie scored from three yards out on what technically was a pass from Josh Allen, who got the ball to McKenzie with a short forward flip on an end-around. Earlier on the drive, Allen’s apparent touchdown pass to wideout Gabriel Davis was nullified by an illegal shift penalty. (Bills 7, Titans 7 with 6:02 left in the 1st quarter)
October 13, 2020 at 7:19 PM EDT
No rust as Titans cash in on interception with early touchdown
By Mark Maske
The NFL’s first Tuesday game in 10 years is underway and the Titans, playing their first game since Sept. 27, have the early lead. Who needs practice?
The Titans cashed in on a tipped-ball interception thrown by Buffalo’s Josh Allen with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to wide receiver A.J. Brown. Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler got the interception after Allen’s pass deflected off Bills wide receiver Andre Roberts. The Titans took possession at the Buffalo 16-yard line. On second down from there, Brown got open with a double move against Bills cornerback Josh Norman and caught Tannehill’s pass for the touchdown. (Titans 7, Bills 0 with 12:45 left in the 1st quarter)
October 13, 2020 at 6:40 PM EDT
The Josh Allen Experience is getting a little less wild — and a lot better
By Adam Kilgore
Brent Vigen cringed when he heard the question posed by an audacious freshman, one of the Wyoming quarterbacks on a Zoom call with a celebrated Cowboys alum. Josh Allen remains connected to the program where he developed into a first-round draft pick, and in May he joined players to offer advice and answer questions. After Allen detailed his quarantine workouts and offseason approach, the freshman piped up.
When you look back, what do you think of that last stretch against Houston in the playoffs?
Vigen, Wyoming’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during Allen’s tenure and now, braced. The end of the Buffalo Bills’ first-round loss to the Texans included moments of virtuosity and insanity that define what both fans and detractors call the Josh Allen Experience. He underhanded a lateral over his tight end’s head while two defenders tackled him. He rifled an ill-advised, across-his-body dart for a first down. He hurdled a linebacker. Ultimately, the Bills squandered a 16-0 lead and lost in overtime. And now, some 18-year-old had asked the program’s most famous alum about it.
But as Allen spoke, Vigen realized he had no need for worry. Allen took responsibility for the Bills’ collapse without deflection or anger. He diagnosed how he would have played differently. Most insightful, Allen pointed to the end of the first half. Coaches had play-called conservatively to set up a field goal rather than allow Allen to try for a touchdown. Allen explained he needed to change over the offseason for his coaches to see him in a new light, to trust him in those moments.
“I said, ‘Okay, this is a different Josh,’ ” Vigen said. “He got a taste last year, and now he’s hungrier than ever.”
October 13, 2020 at 6:31 PM EDT
What to watch for during Tuesday night’s game
By Mark Maske
The Tennessee Titans will return to the field, on the heels of the NFL’s first novel coronavirus outbreak on a team, in a rare Tuesday night game. Their rescheduled game against the Buffalo Bills in Nashville is set to be played after the Titans received no new positive results Tuesday morning from their latest round of coronavirus testing.
Those results were confirmed by a person familiar with the testing. The Titans-Bills game, pushed back by the league from Sunday, becomes the first NFL game to be played on a Tuesday since an Eagles-Vikings game in Philadelphia in 2010 that was delayed because of a December snowstorm. This game is to be televised nationally by CBS starting at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
The Titans have had two straight days with no positive test results. They’ve had 24 members of the organization, including 13 players and 11 staff members, test positive for the coronavirus since Sept. 24. They had 21 members of the organization, including a dozen players, test positive during an 11-day shutdown of the team facility that ended Saturday.
“That’s just the situation we’re in,” Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said in a video news conference Saturday. “We didn’t choose this. But we’re living in the middle of a pandemic and this came up.”
The Titans last played a game Sept. 27, when they improved their record to 3-0 with a victory at Minnesota. The Bills enter Tuesday’s game with a record of 4-0.