Titans stun Dolphins with late comeback

  • Turron Davenport

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    Turron Davenport

    ESPN

      Turron Davenport covers the Tennessee Titans for ESPN. Turron is a former collegiate football player at Cheyney University and is a native of Philadelphia, and he has authored/co-authored four books. You can catch Turron on ESPN Radio on his show “Talking with TD” and you can follow him on Twitter: @TDavenport_NFL.
  • Marcel Louis-Jacques

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    Marcel Louis-Jacques

    ESPN

      Marcel Louis-Jacques joined ESPN in 2019 as a beat reporter covering the Buffalo Bills, before switching to the Miami Dolphins in 2021. The former Carolina Panthers beat writer for the Charlotte Observer won the APSE award for breaking news and the South Carolina Press Association award for enterprise writing in 2018.

Dec 11, 2023, 11:22 PM ET

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Despite costly turnovers, the Tennessee Titans escaped with their first road win of the season, a 28-27 upset over the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.

The shocking comeback was the biggest upset of the season, as the 13.5-point underdogs also dealt a blow to the Dolphins’ quest for the No. 1 AFC seed. The Baltimore Ravens (10-3) now hold sole possession of the top spot. Here’s a breakdown of each team’s performance:


Tennessee Titans (5-8)

Somehow the Titans came away with the win over the Dolphins, who were tied with the Ravens for the top seed in the AFC entering Week 14. Quarterback Will Levis led the Titans on a four-play, 64-yard drive that started on Tennessee’s 36-yard line with just over two minutes left.

The drive was capped off with a 3-yard Derrick Henry touchdown run, his second of the night, to give the Titans the one-point lead. It was Levis’ first fourth-quarter, come-from-behind scoring drive.

QB breakdown: Levis turned in his first 300-yard passing performance, and his 327 passing yards were the most by a rookie in “Monday Night Football” history. Levis continuously stood in the pocket with the pass rush bearing down on him and delivered the ball down the field anyway. He found receiver DeAndre Hopkins on a deep 45-yard pass and showed great arm strength pushing the ball to the sideline on out-breaking routes. Another one of his passes was threaded between three defenders to Hopkins for 24 yards. Levis also showed touch on a pass to Tyjae Spears that traveled 25 air yards, the second most on a reception by a running back this season.

Pivotal play: After the Titans made it a one-score game with 2:40 left, coach Mike Vrabel decided on a 2-point conversion attempt. Trailing by eight, Levis hit Hopkins to make it a six-point game, putting the Titans in position to go up by one point when Henry crossed the goal line with 1:49 left. One could argue that the call wound up being the difference in the game.

Under-the-radar stat that matters: The Titans’ red zone defense entered the week allowing opposing offenses to score touchdowns on an NFL-best 37% of their visits inside the 20-yard line. Miami’s 75% touchdown scoring rate in the red zone was best in the league, as well. The Dolphins’ first three trips inside Tennessee’s 5-yard line ended in just two field goals. The first drive was halted when defensive lineman TK McLendon Jr. recovered a fumble at Tennessee’s 2-yard line. The third trip was halted when Tua Tagovailoa was sacked on third down.

Describe the game in two words: Surprise, surprise. No one expected this to be a close game, but the Titans pulled off the “Vrabel Special” and managed to get the unexpected win.

Up next: vs. Houston Texans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Miami Dolphins (9-4)

In a game where both teams struggled, the Dolphins had a harder time finishing, surrendering 15 unanswered points in the final four minutes.

The NFL’s best red zone offense failed to score touchdowns on three of its five red zone trips as Miami squandered an opportunity to reclaim the top seed in the AFC.

According to Next Gen Stats, the Dolphins had a greater-than-99% chance to win the game with 3:59 remaining in the fourth quarter, and still had a 66% chance of winning when they took the field trailing by a point with 1:49 on the clock.

Instead, their game-winning drive came up short, leaving a crowd of 68,000 fans in stunned silence.

Miami will host the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys over the next two weeks before traveling to Baltimore to face the Ravens in a game that could decide the conference’s top seed. It will end the regular season at home against a Bills team that could be fighting for a playoff seed — or possibly a fourth straight AFC East title.

QB breakdown: This was a tough night for those who believe Tagovailoa is more of an MVP candidate than dynamic receiver Tyreek Hill. With the NFL’s leading receiver out for most of the first half with an apparent ankle injury, Tagovailoa and the offense did not effectively move the ball through the air and failed to score a point. He finished 22-for-33 passing for 240 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions — but the absence of four starting offensive linemen also led to him facing pressure on more than 40% of his dropbacks. He didn’t put the ball in harm’s way, save a pair of errant passes, but he was more of a game manager in this one than he has been all season.

Describe the game in two words: Injury scares. After entering the game without three starters, the Dolphins saw injuries to four more — Xavien Howard, Jaylen Waddle, Connor Williams and Hill — in the first quarter. Howard and Waddle returned nearly right away, but Williams was ruled out with a knee injury and Hill returned in the third quarter after an extended stay on the sideline but was clearly hobbled. There’s no immediate word on the extent of Williams’ injury, but Miami’s offensive line is decimated and its most difficult stretch of the season is coming up quickly.

Promising trend: The Dolphins’ defense scored a touchdown for the third game in a row, this time on a Zach Sieler pick-six. Their offense struggled in stretches, but that defensive touchdown kept the game within reach in the first half — and a timely recovered fumble late in the fourth quarter looked like it would be enough to position the team to win. Miami has fielded the best defense in the NFL over the past month, and it showed its value once again Monday night.

Up next: vs. New York Jets (1 p.m. ET, Sunday).