Titans look to knock off Saints for sixth straight win
The Tennessee Titans did just fine in their first game without Derrick Henry.
The New Orleans Saints didn’t do so well in their first game without Jameis Winston.
The Titans (7-2) used a running back by committee approach in a 28-16 win at the Los Angeles Rams last week as Henry, still the NFL’s leading rusher, began his absence after foot surgery.
The Titans host New Orleans (5-3), which lost at home to Atlanta (27-25) last week in its first game since Winston suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 31.
The Titans used Adrian Peterson, D’Onta Foreman and Jeremy Nichols against the Rams. They combined for 74 rushing yards, which was 43.1 fewer than Henry was averaging.
“All three of those guys played a role and made some plays that helped us win,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of his team’s fifth consecutive victory.
Peterson, the NFL’s fifth all-time leading rusher, and Foreman signed with Tennessee just last week.
As a team, Tennessee rushed 26 times for 69 yards, a 2.7 average. The Titans’ 194 total yards was their fewest in three years. Their longest play from scrimmage gained 16 yards, but their defense controlled the game.
“You don’t play for stats. You play for wins,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “Sometimes they correlate together. In other situations and other games, it’s just a matter of finding a way to win. As a team, we did that.”
The Titans’ defense had two critical interceptions of Matthew Stafford and forced field goals at the end of three long drives.
Kevin Byard returned one of the interceptions 24 yards for a touchdown and David Long Jr. returned another to the 2-yard line, setting up another touchdown. Jeffery Simmons had three of the team’s five sacks and pressured Stafford in the end zone, leading to Long’s interception.
“They’re a well-built team,” Saints linebacker Demario Davis said of the Titans. “They’re very physical on both offense and defense.”
New Orleans has the stingiest run defense in the NFL in terms of yards per game (73.8) and yards per carry (3.2). Only one of its eight opponents (Washington) has rushed for as many as 100 yards.
Trevor Siemian completed 25 of 41 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns in his first start in place of Winston. New Orleans was shut out in the first half and trailed by 18 points early in the fourth, but Siemian led three touchdown drives to give the Saints a brief lead before the Falcons won on a field goal as time expired.
“(Siemian had a) pretty calm demeanor, especially in those final drives after we fell behind,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “He made enough plays and got us back in the game. He got us in and out of a number of different plays. I think we could have helped him more with some of the playmakers.”
Saints receivers dropped several of Siemian’s passes that were catchable.
“Trevor’s been doing it for a while,” center Cesar Ruiz said. “He’s comfortable. He comes in and does his job, leads us and he’s doing a great job. In that fourth quarter, everything started to click. We know what we’re capable of.”
Simmons (ankle) and Long (hamstring) were among eight Titans who did not participate in practice Wednesday.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara (knee) and safety CJ Gardner-Johnson (foot) did not practice. Both left the game against the Falcons, but Kamara returned and finished the game.
–Field Level Media