Sunday's NFL: Titans edge Saints, push league-best winning streak to six
Nashville, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans want to stack up wins, not style points.
On a day quarterback Ryan Tannehill battled a stomach bug that had him feeling “bad” when he woke up, the Titans found yet another way to do just that, extending the NFL’s longest active win streak to six games.
Tannehill ran and threw for touchdowns as the Titans held off the New Orleans Saints, 23-21, Sunday to become the second NFL team to win five straight over playoff teams from the season before. They joined the 2003 Philadelphia Eagles, though Tennessee is 7-0 overall against 2020 playoff teams this season.
“They do know how to win, and I’m thankful for that,” coach Mike Vrabel said of his Titans (8-2).
The Saints (5-4) dropped their second straight since losing quarterback Jameis Winston to a season-ending ACL injury.
“Disappointing loss,” a curt Saints coach Sean Payton said afterward. “I thought we came in with a good plan. We fought hard. That’s what makes it difficult. Just in the end, too many little things.”
Against the Titans, they also played without a trio of starters in four-time Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara because of an injured knee, left tackle Terron Armstead (knee and shoulder injuries) and defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson (foot), just put on injured reserve.
The Saints, who outgained Tennessee 373-264, still had a chance to tie late.
Trevor Siemian, the Titans’ designated survivor QB for part of last season, threw a 15-yard TD pass to Marquez Callaway with 1:16 left, pulling the Saints within 23-21. But Adam Trautman was flagged for a false start, pushing the Saints back to the Titans 7 on the 2-pointer.
Payton called that penalty “significant.”
“Obviously, it changes the play when you’re on the 2 and you go to the 7,” Payton said.
Siemian’s pass to his first read Mark Ingram at the right edge of the end zone was incomplete, with Titans cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins defending. That was the Saints’ eighth straight failed 2-point conversion over several seasons.
“I’ve got to get him a better throw or extend the play,” Siemian said.
“When it comes to those tight situations where we got to get a stop, there’s no panic on the field, no panic on the sideline,” Titans safety Kevin Byard said.
The Titans recovered the onside kick to seal their tightest victory yet in what wound up their lowest scoring game in a win this season.
“Obviously we got to clean some stuff up, but I’m never going to apologize for a win,” Tannehill said.
The Saints could have been in position to kick the extra point for the win if kicker Brian Johnson hadn’t missed two extra points earlier. Johnson did kick a 20-yard field goal with 5:33 left to pull New Orleans within 23-15, but the Titans stopped the Saints on five plays with goal to go trailing 23-12.
Jeffery Simmons, who had a career-high three of the Titans’ five sacks in last week’s win over the Rams, had two more by halftime. Harold Landry also had a sack, giving him a career-high 10 for the season, and the Titans had four by halftime.
The AFC-leading Titans had some luck extending their streak.
A slight roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Kaden Elliss wiped out Tannehill’s interception in the end zone by safety Marcus Williams, and he later scored on a 1-yard sneak for a 13-6 lead. Tannehill also fumbled a snap at the end of the third quarter, and receiver A.J. Brown recovered for a 6-yard gain and a first down.
Dylan Cole stripped Deonte Harris of the ball on the opening kickoff of the third quarter to set up Tannehill’s 2-yard TD pass to MyCole Pruitt. That prompted fans to start volleying a beach ball around the lower bowl on the Tennessee sideline.
The ball disappeared as the Saints kept getting the football back in the fourth quarter.
Ingram scored on a 13-yard run late in the third period to start the comeback, pulling New Orleans within 20-12.
► (At) Green Bay 17, Seattle 0: Aaron Rodgers was uneven in his return from COVID-19 but did more than enough to support a standout Green Bay defense.
A.J. Dillon rushed for two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Packers, who handed the Seahawks their first shutout loss in a decade.
A week after he was forced to sit out a loss at Kansas City because of a positive COVID-19 test and the subsequent revelation he was not vaccinated, Rodgers went 23 of 37 for 292 yards and threw an interception in the end zone in the third quarter.
Rodgers did not practice all week and was cleared to play Saturday under the NFL’s protocols for unvaccinated players. Although Rodgers was hardly at his best, his return made this much clear: With him, the Packers (8-2) are among the best teams in the NFC and a Super Bowl contender.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson also struggled in his return after missing three games with an injury to the middle finger on his throwing hand. He went 20 of 40 for 161 yards with two interceptions. The Seahawks (3-6) wasted two scoring opportunities when Kevin King and Adrian Amos picked off Wilson passes in the end zone.
The Packers got their first shutout since a 22-0 victory over the Bills on Sept. 30, 2018. The Seahawks hadn’t been shut out since falling 24-0 to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 18, 2011.
► Carolina 34, (at) Arizona 10: Cam Newton provided a flashback to his Superman days in his second debut with the Panthers, throwing for one touchdown, running for another.
Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP who was signed by the quarterback-thin Panthers earlier in the week, made his presence felt on his first play of the game, entering on third down and screaming “I’m back!” after barreling into the right corner of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown.
On Carolina’s next drive, Newton threw a 2-yard TD pass to Robby Anderson as the Panthers (5-5) built a stunning 17-0 lead in the first quarter and a 23-0 advantage by halftime.
The Cardinals (8-2) had the best record in the NFL coming into the game but looked discombobulated from the beginning. Backup Colt McCoy, playing a second straight game for the injured Kyler Murray, coughed up a fumble after being sacked on the third play of the game.
The Cardinals, also missing top receiver DeAndre Hopkins, managed 169 total yards.
► Philadelphia 30, (at) Denver 13: Cornerback Darius Slay returned a fumble 82 yards for a touchdown and rookie DeVonta Smith hauled in two TD passes from Jalen Hurts.
The Eagles (4-6) won for the fourth time on the road and prevented the Broncos (5-5) from sweeping the NFC East teams on their schedule just one week after Denver dominated Dallas in one of the biggest upsets of the season.
The Broncos had trouble punching it in all afternoon, stalling at the Eagles 3, 10 and 11 before Melvin Gordon III took the handoff on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles 23 with the Broncos trailing 20-13 late in the third quarter. He gained the 2 yards necessary for the first down, but he coughed up the football before going down.
Slay scooped the ball from the pile, reversed direction just in front of his 10-yard line and then zig-zagged his way downfield through a smattering of orange jerseys.
Inexplicably, Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater failed to even attempt a tackle, even a halfhearted one, as Slay ran right past him for the game-sealing score.
The Broncos, 1-20 when trailing at halftime under coach Vic Fangio, frittered away several golden opportunities.
► Minnesota 27, (at) L.A. Chargers 20: Kirk Cousins threw a pair of touchdown passes to Tyler Conklin and Dalvin Cook rushed for 94 yards and a score.
Justin Jefferson had nine receptions for 143 yards to help Minnesota (4-5) snap a two-game losing streak after it squandered late leads to Dallas and Baltimore.
The Vikings came into the game with five players on the COVID-19 list, including starting safety Harrison Smith and center Garrett Bradbury. They also were missing four other defensive starters because of injuries.
Los Angeles (5-4) has dropped three of its past four.
The Vikings went up 13-3 in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Conklin. Minnesota had a short field to work with following a diving interception by Eric Kendricks at the Chargers 31.
Los Angeles scored on touchdowns by Larry Rountree and Austin Ekeler for a 17-13 lead. Minnesota then regained the lead on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Conklin was open in the back of the end zone on a crossing route after Chargers safeties Derwin James and Alohi Gilman ran into each other.
Cook extended the Vikings’ advantage to 27-17 early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run.
► (At) Washington 29, Tampa Bay 19: Tom Brady threw two interceptions in the first quarter as part of an implosion by the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Washington lost Chase Young, last season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, to a potentially serious injury.
Tampa Bay lost a second consecutive game on either side of its bye week and was dealt an extra blow in the last minute when nose tackle Vita Vea was carted off with an injury on the final play of a 19-play, 80-yard drive over 10:26 that sealed the victory for Washington (3-6).
Brady threw two picks just like in the loss to New Orleans two weeks ago and finished 23 of 34 for 220 yards and two touchdown passes.
The Buccaneers (6-3) couldn’t find much rhythm on either side of the ball in a rematch of their wild-card victory at Washington from January. Brady’s interceptions on two of his first six throws — one off the hands of rookie Jaelon Darden and another inexplicable toss that was caught by Washington safety Bobby McCain — disjointed the NFL’s best scoring and passing offense.
Brady bounced back in the second half, throwing TD passes to Cameron Brate and Mike Evans. The 40-yard connection with Evans cut the Buccaneers’ deficit to 23-19.
That’s where the comeback bid faltered, when Tampa Bay’s defense could not stop Washington’s offense on the final, clock-draining drive.
► (At) Dallas 43, Atlanta 3: Ezekiel Elliott ran for two touchdowns, Nahshon Wright recovered a blocked punt for a score a week after touching one kept Dallas from getting the ball, and the Cowboys routed the Falcons.
Plenty of things that went wrong for the Cowboys in a blowout loss to Denver that ended a six-game winning streak a week ago went right to help the NFC East leaders get back on track. Offensive execution was among them.
Dallas (7-2) looked much more like the NFL’s No. 1 offense with Dak Prescott throwing two TD passes to CeeDee Lamb and Elliott finishing two drives kept alive by fourth-down conversions, all before halftime.
Then came the sequence that led to the highest-scoring quarter in franchise history (29 points in the second) and Dallas’ biggest halftime lead (36-3) since 1971.
Dorance Armstrong’s one-armed block of Dustin Colquitt’s punt was recovered by Wright in the end zone with 37 seconds remaining in the first half. A week earlier again Denver, Wright touched a blocked punt past the line of scrimmage without securing the loose ball, and the Broncos recovered to retain possession.
Atlanta (4-5) had 12 men on the field for the extra point, so the Cowboys went for the 2-point conversion from the 1. Elliott added another plunge across the goal line.
► (At) New England 35, Cleveland 7: Mac Jones threw three touchdown passes, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for a career-high 100 yards and two scores, and the Browns lost quarterback Baker Mayfield to a knee injury.
The Patriots (6-4) won their fourth straight game. The Browns (5-5) have dropped four of their last six and haven’t won at New England since 1992, when Bill Belichick was their coach.
Jones finished 19 of 23 for 198 yards. Hunter Henry added a pair of TD receptions. Playing without star running back Nick Chubb, who missed the game after a positive COVID-19 test, the Browns were held to 217 total yards and were 1 of 11 on third downs.
Mayfield limped off the field after taking a pair of hits in the third quarter. Edge rusher Deatrich Wise drove Mayfield into the turf and was penalized for roughing the passer. Two plays later, linebacker Matt Judon crunched into Mayfield’s midsection, and the QB was slow to get up.
A few minutes later, he left the game and was replaced by Case Keenum, who was sacked on back-to-back plays. Mayfield visited the sideline medical tent and later limped out. He remained on the sideline for the rest of the game.
► (At) Indianapolis 23, Jacksonville 17: Jonathan Taylor rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown and Indianapolis returned a blocked punt for a score.
Indy (5-5) has won four of five to reach .500 for the first time this season. The Jaguars (2-7) have lost 12 consecutive road games and nine straight against AFC South foes.
Taylor has scored in seven straight games and gained at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of those, both league highs. He’s the fourth player during the Super Bowl era to achieve both feats and he’s tied with two-time defending NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry for the league lead with 937 yards.
After taking an early 17-0 lead, the Colts struggled to seal it — again. All they could muster was Michael Badgley’s short field goal near the end of the first half and his 37-yarder with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter. It turned out to be just enough against a Jacksonville offense that finished with 331 total yards.
James Robinson scored on a 1-yard TD run and Trevor Lawrence hooked up with Dan Arnold on a 2-point conversion, getting the Jags within 20-17 early in the fourth.
Lawrence got the ball back with a chance to win it in the waning minutes — until he fumbled near midfield with 50 seconds to go and Colts defensive lineman Kemoko Turay recovered it.
► Buffalo 45, (at) N.Y. Jets 17: Josh Allen threw two touchdown passes, Buffalo ran for four scores and the Bills’ top-ranked ranked defense intercepted Mike White four times.
It was an impressive showing for the Bills (6-3), who rebounded from an embarrassing 9-6 loss at Jacksonville last week by thoroughly dominating the lowly Jets (2-7).
Allen was 21 of 28 for 366 yards with TD passes to Matt Breida and Stefon Diggs and an interception. Breida added a scoring run, as did Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie as Buffalo’s offense looked alive and well.
Taron Johnson, Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace and Jordan Poyer each intercepted White, who made his third straight start for the injured Zach Wilson — and it might have been his last.