Derrick Henry showed once again how important he is to the Tennessee Titans.
This time, he had help from the Tennessee defence.
Henry scored his third touchdown with 3:05 left, and the Titans stopped Josh Allen on a fourth-down quarterback sneak in the final seconds to beat Buffalo 34-31 on Monday night, snapping the Bills’ four-game winning streak.
The AFC East-leading Bills drove to the Titans 3 on their final possession and could have sent the game to overtime with a field goal, but instead went for the win – and didn’t execute.
First, Allen was marked shy of the first-down marker on a scramble. On fourth down, the rugged quarterback moved from the shotgun to take the snap under centre. Tennessee’s defensive line surged forward to meet Allen, whose legs went out from under him before Titans tackle Jeffery Simmons smothered the quarterback.
The Titans (4-2) took over with 12 seconds left to start a much-needed celebration for the battered defending AFC South champs.
“We got some dogs over there,” Henry said of Tennessee’s defence. “They fight to the end. They showed it right there.”
Henry came in as the NFL’s rushing leader even with most teams in the league having played six games, and he finished with 143 yards, topping 100 for the fifth consecutive game. It’s the longest streak in the NFL since DeMarco Murray had eight straight in 2014 for Dallas.
The 2020 AP Offensive Player of the Year also had a 76-yard TD run and a 3-yarder. His long TD – the first of seven lead changes in the game – came with the Titans trailing 6-0 early in the second thanks to the defence holding the Bills to a pair of early field goals.
“We continue to jump on Derrick’s back, and he’s willing and able to carry us,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “And it’s just something that you know you have in your back pocket, front pocket. We pull it out and we use it. It just gave us a big shot of life there.”
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill added another TD run against a Buffalo defence that came in ranked third against the run.
Harold Landry had two of the Titans’ three sacks, and Kevin Byard intercepted a pass.
The Bills (4-2) wanted to go for the win instead of playing for OT, and the fourth down caught Buffalo slightly off guard. Bills coach Sean McDermott said officials initially signalled Allen got the first down on his third-down scramble. McDermott said he talked after the game with referee Clete Blakeman, who told him an official radioed down from the box that Allen had come up short.
“We didn’t get it done,” McDermott said.
Allen, who had converted an NFL-best 24 quarterback sneaks for first downs since 2018, said he didn’t have great footing.
“I was just trying to find a window to get in there, and quarterback sneaks aren’t the funnest play by any means,” Allen said.
The Bills extended their NFL record of leading at halftime to 15 straight games. But their defence, which came in allowing a league-best 12.8 points a game, gave up a season high in points.
Allen finished with 353 yards and three TDs. His third was a 1-yarder to Tommy Sweeney in the final minute of the third quarter, and Allen caught a pass from tight end Dawson Knox for the 2-point conversion and a 31-24 lead. Buffalo didn’t score again.
With his 29-yard TD pass to a wide-open Cole Beasley just before halftime, Allen passed Aaron Rogers with 108 combined TDs in his 49th start. Rogers had 107 TDs for what had been the most by a quarterback in his first 50 starts since the NFL merger.
HENRY GOES LONG
Henry now has 11 TDs of 50 yards or longer, tying former Titans running back Chris Johnson for fourth-most in NFL history. Only Adrian Peterson (16), Barry Sanders (15) and Jim Brown (12) have more. This TD came on the one-year anniversary of a 94-yard scoring run by Henry.
HOME RUN THROW FORWARD
The Titans dipped back into history for a play that beat the Bills in an AFC wild-card game in January 2000 known as the Music City Miracle. The play was called “Home Run Throw Back” with Frank Wycheck throwing a lateral to Kevin Dyson for the winning touchdown.
This time, Chester Rogers caught a punt late in the first quarter and threw across the field to Chris Jackson. The issue? His pass was a forward pass and not a lateral, costing the Titans a penalty.
This was a costly game for Tennessee. Three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan was carted from the field and evaluated for a concussion late in the second quarter. Rookie cornerback Caleb Farley, the Titans’ top draft pick, had to be helped off the field with an injured left knee he couldn’t put weight on.
Receiver Julio Jones, who made an amazing 43-yard catch of a ball that bounced off Micah Hyde’s helmet, also hurt a hamstring after missing the last two games. Defensive back Chris Jackson didn’t return with an injured foot.
Cameron Batson hurt a knee on a kickoff return just before halftime. Tennessee came into this game with 16 on injured reserve.
For the Bills, Knox hurt his hand and missed the fourth quarter.
Buffalo has a bye before hosting Miami on Halloween.
Tennessee hosts Kansas City on Sunday.