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In Week 8, the Tennessee Titans won a narrow game against Indianapolis, 34-31, but the conversation for the subsequent six days centered around the offense losing Derrick Henry to injury. A Jones fracture caught up to the bell cow running back, who was on pace for another 2,000 rushing yards this season after leading the league last year (2,027).
Henry’s injury mattered most this week. The Los Angeles Rams team sports a top-three offense and a high-level defense that will welcome all-time Denver Broncos sack leader Von Miller in the coming week. The Titans met their assignment though, unfazed by Sunday’s opponent, and eventually beat LA in commanding fashion, 28-16.
Defense primarily stood out for the Titans Sunday evening. For nearly four full quarters, the Rams only had nine points (three field goals from Matt Gay) on the board until Matthew Stafford threw a 3-yard touchdown to Sony Michel with 24 seconds to go.
Though the Titans are often mediocre as far as NFL defenses go, their performance against McVay’s humming offense — garnering MVP consideration for Stafford — hints that the group may possess a knack for stopping elite offenses in big moments.
The Rams offense finished with as many touchdowns as Titans safety Kevin Byard Sunday night. Byard returned a 24-yard interception for six points in the second quarter off a late throw by Stafford. That pick meant back-to-back turnovers from Stafford, who threw the ball directly at Tennessee’s David Long to escape getting sacked in his own end zone on the previous possession.
Tennessee’s defensive line kept Stafford on the move all night, with Jeffrey Simmons accruing three sacks, one QB hit and four QB hurries, and defensive end Denico Autry adding 1.5 sacks. As a collective, the Titans racked up 11 QB hits on Stafford.
Stafford finished the game 31-of-48, with 294 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His connection with Cooper Kupp (11 catches, 95 yards) and Robert Woods (7 catches, 98 yards) remained intact, but relentless pressure from Tennessee’s defensive line kept the deep play largely out of reach for McVay and the offense.
The Rams defense disrupted Tennessee’s passing game with their own signature pressure: amassing eight QB hits on Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill finished the night hitting 19-of-27 passes for 143 yards, two total touchdown and one interception.
A backfield without King Henry featured D’onta Foreman (5 carries, 29 yards), Jeremy McNichols (7 carries, 24 yards) and the newly signed Adrian Peterson (10 carries, 21 yards). Peterson ran in for a goal line score in the fourth to go up 28-9, a welcomed cherry on top of a big win versus the Rams.
The Titans have the AFC’s best record at 7-2 and will move on to the New Orleans Saints in Week 10. Los Angeles remains in second place in the NFC West at 7-2, behind the Arizona Cardinals, and face the San Francisco 49ers for the upcoming Monday night matchup.
Check out Monday morning for Armando Salguero‘s column on the Tennessee win.
Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela