So much for the Rams proving in prime time that they belong atop the list of Super Bowl contenders. Los Angeles played host to "Sunday Night Football" in Week 9, but Sunday's prime-time affair belonged almost exclusively to the visiting Titans. While Ryan Tannehill and an offense featuring Adrian Peterson among fill-ins for the injured Derrick Henry did not always explode, Tennessee's defense definitely did, with Jeffery Simmons and Co. disrupting Matthew Stafford early and often to headline a 28-16 rout at SoFi Stadium.
Tennessee has now won five straight to improve to 7-2, perhaps solidifying itself as the new favorite in the AFC. The Rams, meanwhile, are now 7-2 and officially behind the red-hot Cardinals in the NFC West.
Here are some immediate takeaways from Sunday night's big Titans win:
Why the Titans won
On a night that started feisty and physical on both sides, they were opportunistic amid the early punches: after a deep-ball pick prematurely ended their first drive, they held the Rams to a field goal and then, a few series later, forced Stafford into back-to-back interceptions deep in his own territory. Simmons wrecked things up front, rattling Stafford out of the gate, while Denico Autry and Harold Landry also stepped up to collapse the pocket. The front-seven heat took pressure off a secondary that had surprisingly little trouble containing Cooper Kupp and Co. for much of the night. And offensively, while Tannehill and their post-Henry running game lacked pizzazz, they successfully grinded it out when they needed to, outmuscling L.A. throughout the evening.
Why the Rams lost
Stafford has been an MVP candidate all year, headlining the Rams' high-flying attack, but against the Titans, he looked an awful lot like the guy who spent so many years ducking and covering and forcing things in Detroit. His protection was poor, no doubt, with Austin Corbett and the Rams' interior frequently folding at the will of Simmons and the rest of Mike Vrabel's front. But the QB wasn't great himself, either, missing open downfield shots and throwing a pair of really ill-advised passes that ended up giving Tennessee the turnover advantage. Kupp and Robert Woods showed up too late (as did Sean McVay's fourth-down play-calling), and the run game didn't really make a difference. Defensively, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey did their usual thing, but penalties and perhaps a shade of indifference left them vulnerable in the final stages of the game, too.
As soon as Stafford threw a pick-six, the Titans actually appeared poised to win this. The Rams led 3-0 when Stafford was first picked off, with David Long Jr. nabbing his throw and setting up a quick Geoff Swaim score. Trailing 7-3, though, on the first play of the ensuing drive, he inexplicably fired a short one toward Woods with multiple cover men in the area, and Kevin Byard had no problem returning the pick 24 yards for the score. The 14-3 hole proved too deep to overcome.
Play of the game
It has to be the play in which Stafford got whipped around and pulled a Carson Wentz, gifting a pick to the opponent near his own end zone -- a play that defined a night full of Titans-led disruptions:
The Titans (7-2) will return home in Week 10 after their big prime-time win, this time to face the Saints (5-3), who just lost a narrow one to the Falcons. The Rams (7-2), meanwhile, will hit the road for an important NFC West showdown with the 49ers (3-5), who just fell to the Cardinals, on "Monday Night Football."