For at least one night, no Derrick Henry, no problem.
In their first game since 2016 without the two-time defending rushing champion, the Titans soundly defeated the Rams 28-9 on Sunday Night Football.
Tennessee’s offense didn’t look particularly in sync for much of the night. But the unit was buoyed by a strong performance from the team’s defense. The Rams didn’t score at least 20 points for the first time this season, as the Titans pressured and hit quarterback Matthew Stafford throughout the night.
Defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons led the way with 3.0 sacks, three tackles for loss, plus an additional QB hit that induced an interception. Defensive end Denico Autry was a problem, too, recording 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss, and three total quarterback hits.
The Titans took the lead in the second quarter and never looked back, taking control of the game with back-to-back picks off quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford was trying to avoid getting sacked by Simmons for a safety on the first, but poorly chose to toss the ball to the middle of the field after Simmons spun him around. Linebacker David Long picked off the pass and set up the Titans at the L.A. 2-yard line. A play later, the Titans had a 7-3 lead.
Then safety Kevin Byard picked off Stafford’s next pass and returned it to the house, putting Tennessee up 14-3.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill added a 1-yard touchdown of his own late in the second quarter, fooling the Rams’ defense when he kept the ball on a bootleg on fourth-and-goal.
Los Angeles’ defense didn’t allow a point in the third quarter, allowing the club’s offense ample opportunity to cut the deficit. And it looked like the Rams had scored a touchdown when tight end Tyler Higbee reeled in a Stafford pass in the back of the end zone with 8:25 left in the third period. But upon review, the officials ruled Higbee had stepped out of bounds before making the catch. That brought on an illegal touching penalty that negated the TD. L.A. settled for a 22-yard field goal.
Matt Gay added a 54-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter, making the score 21-9.
The Rams’ best chance to make it a game came in the last period on a drive that reached midfield. But on fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 40, Stafford tripped while moving to his left after a play-action fake. He got a throw off while falling to the ground, but the pass to Van Jefferson fell incomplete.
Aided by a pair of roughing the passer penalties — at least one of which was questionable — the Titans scored a game-sealing touchdown on their next possession. Playing in his first game for Tennessee, running back Adrian Peterson took in a 1-yard carry for a touchdown, giving him 125 in his career.
Los Angeles added a cosmetic touchdown with 24 seconds left, as Stafford connected with running back Sony Michel for a 3-yard score. But that was far too little too late.
Tannehill finished 19-of-27 passing for 143 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Peterson had 10 carries for 21 yards.
Now 7-2, the Titans are back home to face the Saints next week.
Also at 7-2, the Rams will head up to the Bay Area to play the 49ers on Monday Night Football in Week 10.