Titans rally late to beat Broncos in sloppy opener

For most of Monday night’s game, the Tennessee Titans might have wondered if they spent wisely this offseason on Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill, who had a great season out of nowhere last season after being acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, got a four-year, $118 million deal to remain with the team. It was a questionable deal. Tannehill never had much success with the Dolphins. And for about 55 minutes on Monday night, Tannehill couldn’t get much going against a Denver Broncos defense without star pass rusher Von Miller.

Then when it counted most, Tannehill made his money. And he helped get Stephen Gostkowski some redemption.

Tannehill led the Titans on a long scoring drive in the final minutes to save a victory on a sloppy night for both teams. Gostkowski, the longtime Patriots kicker who had missed three field goals and an extra point in his Titans debut, kicked a 25-yard field goal with 17 seconds left to win the game 16-14.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Titans escaped with a win.

A mistake-filled game to end Week 1

The second Monday night game was far from aesthetically pleasing. The Broncos played hard on defense, with a physical approach to containing 2019 NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry. Denver’s offense had a nice start but quickly got in a rut, as Tennessee played some strong defense of its own. Crucial mistakes — a Melvin Gordon fumble, a personal foul that wiped out an interception, a brutal drop by rookie first-round pick Jerry Jeudy on a third down and then another one late in the fourth quarter — kept the Broncos from taking control of the game. The score was tied at 7-7 for most of the night.

The action picked up in the fourth quarter. The Titans went for it on fourth down at the 1-yard line, and Jonnu Smith found himself wide open for a go-ahead touchdown. Gostkowski missed the extra point. The Titans led 13-7.

Denver’s offense suddenly woke up after that, finally going on a long drive. Gordon scored to give Denver a 14-13 lead. The score remained there until the final minute.

Drew Lock (3) of the Denver Broncos is sacked by Jadeveon Clowney of the Tennessee Titans. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)MoreTitans-Broncos comes down to the end

The Titans had a couple chances late in the fourth quarter to drive and at least try a field goal for the win. They started both possessions deep in their territory. On the first, Henry was stuffed on first down and Tannehill threw two incompletions.

The next time the Titans got the ball back, they were down to their last shot. Tannehill got them out of a hole with some key completions. The Titans got to midfield by the two-minute warning. A big penalty on the Broncos kept the drive alive, and the Titans got inside the red zone on a nice run by Henry. Broncos coach Vic Fangio, who had all three timeouts, didn’t use any to stop the clock and give his offense some time if the Titans scored. That was a clear tactical error, one that too many NFL coaches still make.

By the time the Titans kicked a short field goal, the Broncos didn’t have enough time for more than a few desperation heaves downfield. The Broncos got to their 43-yard line with two seconds left but Drew Lock couldn’t even get a Hail Mary attempt downfield and threw incomplete.

It wasn’t a great game for either team. At least the Titans could fly home at 1-0.

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