Successive Tennessee Titans turnover turned a tied tussle in Miami into a 14-point deficit lead by Will Levis, in the blink of an eye in the fourth quarter.
A botched punt by Eric Garror succeeded by a Will Levis horific pitch attempt to Derrick Henry took the Titans from plucky to seemimgly doomed as the Dolphins cashed in on both miscues to go up 14 points with lower than five minutes left.
Then, the improbable comeback began.
Levis lead a lightning nine-play, 75-yard drive where the Tennesse score in only 1:54, with the QB hitting DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown with 2:40 left. The two-point conversion slashed the lead to six points.
Mike Vrabel’s defense induced a fast three-and-out, getting the ball back to Levis with 2:14 to play. It was ample time for the big-armed rookie to cut through a wilting Miami defense. Levis hit an open Hopkins for 36 yards, then tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo for 16 to put Tennesee on the doorstep at the two-minute warning. Two plays later, Henry dove into the end zone. Comeback concluded.
The Titans became the first team to win a match where they trailed by 14-plus points with under 3:00 minutes left since the Saints in Week 11, 2017 against Washington (34-31 in overtime), per NFL Research. From Week 12, 2017, until the Tennesee’s Week 14 victory, trailing by 14+ points with under 3:00 minutes left were 0-582.
“We did a lot of things that were going to cost us, obviously, the turnovers and the mistakes,” Vrabel said via the team’s official website. “But we did more positive things late. The defense got some stops, and when the offense needed to come through, they came through.
“It doesn’t have to be that hard. But I’m proud of the character of this football team, competing. I’m really proud of these guys.”
Levis night was filled with twists, turns, peaks and valleys that will excite any roller-coaster designer. It began with a three-and-out, then the bottom fell out of the ride with a pick-six right into the lap of Dolphins defensive lineman Zach Sieler.
Then the rookie began the slow climb, helping send the Titans into a fourth-quarter tie. The horrible pitch play seemed to silence Titans’ chances. But Levis powered through the final two drives, standing quietly in the pocket and delivering rockets when needed.
He finished with 327 passing yards, a career high on 23 of 38 attempts with a TD and an INT while taking just one sack despite an offensive line that has been through the wringer this season.
“I was just sticking to the game plan,” Levis said. “Throwing to the open guy, trusting that I didn’t necessarily need to be forcing anything. That happy medium of pushing it down the field but throwing to the open guy.”
With the ground game stymied – Henry: 17 carries, 34 yards, 2 TDs. Levis applied big plays to Hopkins and running back Tyjae Spears to kickstart the offense late and made the right reads in the red zone. His ability to maneuver the pocket and fix his eyes downfield is powerful for a young quarterback.
Chalk up another win for Vrabel’s squad, which keeps proving it will fight no matter the situation. Even down big with less than three minutes left.
“This is the best I’ve felt after a game,” edge rusher Arden Key said. “I hope everyone remembers what it takes to get this feeling. Didn’t nobody think we were going to win. Everybody thought it was going to be another Miami vs Broncos thing, with them putting 70 points on us. … It’s a good win, a hard-fought win.”
Related NFL News:
Matt LaFleur: Packers ‘learned a valuable lesson’ in defeat by Giants.