The Tennessee Titans in the end went for broke and came up broken, suffering their third straight loss, 20-19 to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in Wembley Stadium.
The Titans scored what would have been the tying touchdown with 31 seconds to play when Marcus Mariota hit tight end Luke Stocker on a 1-yard pass on fourth-and-goal.
That brought Tennessee, which had trailed virtually the whole game, back to within a point. But head coach Mike Vrabel elected to go for two points and the win. Tennessee's try for two points wound up in a defensive holding penalty against the Chargers' Casey Hayward, which gave the Titans another shot after Mariota's pass fell incomplete. The second try, a pass for Taywan Taylor in the back of the end zone, also fell incomplete, allowing Los Angeles to escape with the win.
After the game, Vrabel explained his decision to decide the game right there and not play for overtime by kicking the extra point.
“I told the team that we made a decision that we're going to be aggressive. And early in the drive, when the drive started, I thought that if we scored - when we scored - if there was less than 40 seconds, we were going to go for two and win the game. If there was a minute and 30, we were going to kick the extra point and go play defense,” Vrabel said. “I've got a lot of faith in our players. They had been converting third downs and converting in those situations. Marcus was doing everything he needed to do and keeping plays alive. I'm not going to second guess the call it just didn't work out.”
In one sense, the Titans were fortunate to have a chance to tie or win it, given that they had sputtered three times earlier in the red zone, settling for two first half field goals and losing a possession on an interception. That pick was Mariota's first-ever red zone interception in his four-year career.
After the Titans settled for a Ryan Succop field goal on their first possession and a short-lived 3-0 lead, the Chargers went to work. Philip Rivers, who was 19 of 26 for 306 yards, scorched the Titans defense as Tyrell Williams burned Logan Ryan for a 75-yard TD pass that gave the Chargers a 7-3 edge. Los Angeles pushed that lead to 10-3 on a Michael Badgley field goal.
The Titans answered with Succop's second field goal of the game, and the scored stayed 10-6 at halftime, as Tennessee squandered a red zone chance late in the first half when Mariota was intercepted by Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman.
The Chargers scored again, burning the Titans defense as Mike Williams caught a 55-yard touchdown pass, getting behind safety Kendrick Lewis on the play to push the lead to 17-6. With the Titans having not scored a touchdown in their previous two games, they finally broke through on Derrick Henry's 1-yard run that pulled Tennessee to within 17-13.
The Titans managed to hold the Chargers to a field goal in the fourth quarter and with 4:55 left began the march downfield with the game in the balance.
Other than the end result, the Titans had the game unfold in their favor in many ways. They controlled time of possession, running 68 plays to just 44 for the Chargers. Tennessee rushed for 164 yards, led by Dion Lewis, who had 91 yards on 13 carries and also caught six passes for 64 more yards. Mariota was 24 of 32 for 237 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
For the Chargers, the defense stood up at the right time to preserve the victory, and the offense basically used two explosive plays, which proved to be just enough.
“They tried to keep the ball way from us. We only had 15 plays the whole first half,” Rivers said. “We've been talking about trying to find a way to get to 5-2 now for a month, and we did it by winning four straight. Now we get some rest and some family time.”
The Titans, on the other hand, are 3-4 after losing for the third straight week. Both the Chargers and Titans head into their bye week. The Titans don't play again until a Monday night game in Dallas on Nov. 5. The Chargers travel to Seattle on Nov. 4.