By Terrance Turner
Tonight — after 16 days — the Tennessee Titans returned to play, on a rare Tuesday night football game. (According to CBS, this is only the second time in 70 years that a game has been played on Tuesday night.) The unusual date came after a series of delays and reschedules. The Titans’ match with the Buffalo Bills had to be postponed twice after an outbreak of COVID-19.
The Tennessean says the reason for the delay was a flurry of positive COVID-19 tests for Titans team members — 20 of them, including 10 players and 10 team personnel. The Titans were forced to close their facility. Later two more tests were positive. But then the outbreak exploded: eight positive tests included five team personnel and three players: defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, long snapper Beau Brinkley and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson.” The facility was again shut down until the following Saturday.
The NFL said on Wednesday, Sept. 30 that the Titans-Bills game would be moved to either Monday or Tuesday. That would’ve placed it at around Oct. 6. But another player tested positive on Oct. 1, per the Tennessean, and the next day, two more Titans players — wide receivers Adam Humphries and Cam Batson — tested positive. That brought the total number of infected players since Sept. 24 to eight. The NFL began to investigate the team’s handling of the pandemic. The Titans-Bills game that had been scheduled for Sunday was rescheduled for Tuesday night.
And after all that, the Tennessee Titans shined. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another, and running back Derrick Henry
The team jumped out to an early 7-0 lead when quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw to AJ Brown. But after a Bills TD, Titans running back Derrick Henry scored a rushing touchdown to make it 14-7. Then, on the next drive, he stiff-armed Bills cornerback Josh Norman, knocking him to the ground:
The scores just kept coming for the Titans. Later in the second half, Tannehill dashed into the end zone for the touchdown, making it 21-10. Then, just as the Bills were trying to put together a drive, quarterback Josh Allen was intercepted by Titans corner Malcolm Butler. After the catch, Butler was pursued by a Bills defender, but he somehow got away. Butler spun out of a tackle, stumbled on the turf, put his hand on the field to steady himself, scrambled to his feet, and then took off:
It was a 68-yard return, according to the CBS announcers. It was a crucial play that would mark a turning point in the game. The Titans cashed in on that costly interception when Tannehill hit Jonnu Smith for the touchdown.
In the second half, Derrick Henry helped power the Titans offense. Henry barreled through defenders, sometimes stiff-arming them, to gain yards. CBS announcers pointed out that Henry is hard to tackle, at 6’3 and 250 lbs. The Titans were up 28-16. On the drive, Henry had several rushes, and Tannehill turned on the jets with a 20-yard run.
The Titans got to 1st and goal. Henry ran in for the TD, his second of the night. Titans player Derek Long knocked out the ball on a Bills punt return. Titans got the ball and decided to go for broke. Tannehill ran sideways and tossed the ball to Jonnu Smith for the touchdown! Call goes under review; commentators were conflicted on a “really close” call. Did Tannehill go over the line of scrimmage? Would the touchdown count?
“After review, the ruling on the field stands,” the ref announced. “Touchdown.”
Jonnu Smith added another touchdown later in the fourth quarter to seal the win. The Titans won in a blowout, 42-16, to remain undefeated.