Titans vs. 49ers score: A.J. Brown's huge night powers comeback win as Tennessee closes in on AFC South crown
Tennessee outscored San Francisco 20-7 in the second half to get back into the win column
Boos rang throughout Nissan Stadium early during "Thursday Night Football," but that Music City tune quickly shifted to cheers in the second stanza, as the Tennessee Titans used a 20-7 second-half run to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17. Randy Bullock knocked in a game-winning field goal from 44 yards out to secure the victory.
The Titans recorded just 55 yards of total offense and zero points in the first half, but something changed after the halftime break, and now the Titans are just an Indianapolis Colts loss away from wrapping up the AFC South. The difference for the Titans this week was the return of star wideout A.J. Brown, who missed the last three games with a chest injury. On Thursday night, last year's Pro Bowl receiver caught 11 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Niners star offensive weapon Deebo Samuel shined as well, as he caught nine passes for 159 yards and rushed five times for 32 yards. Still, his incredible performance wasn't enough. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo struggled, as he completed 25 of 34 passes for 306 yards to go along with one touchdown and two interceptions. His first interception came on San Francisco's second drive of the game, as he threw the ball to Jackrabbit Jenkins in the end zone from just 8 yards out. His second pick in the third quarter set up Tennessee's game-tying touchdown.
Check back soon, as this article will be turned into a takeaways piece which dives more deeply into what went down in Nashville on Thursday.
Why the Titans won
Arthur Juan Brown. He missed the last three games with a chest injury and told NFL Network on Thursday night that he healed quickly, but wasn't even sure if he was supposed to be out there just yet. Brown caught a career-high 11 passes for 145 yards. It started on the first drive of the second half, when he had 31 yards receiving to help Tennessee get into field goal range. He was visibly finding a rhythm by getting up and celebrating first downs. Then, things took off from there.
This was not a perfect outing by any means and Todd Downing's play calls are something to keep an eye on moving forward. Again, this offense as a whole was outgained by Samuel in just the first half as boos rained down on the hometown team. Brown stepped up in the second half and created energy for this team to thrive on. It helped Ryan Tannehill, it helped the defense -- the confidence helped everyone.
Why the 49ers lost
The 49ers should have been up 17-0 after their first three drives. Instead, they scored just 10 points in those first few possessions, as Garoppolo threw an interception in the red zone on the second drive. The second half is where things really fell apart, however. After Tennessee finally get on the board with a field goal, Garoppolo threw an interception on San Francisco's first offensive play of the third quarter. That gave the Titans great field position, and they tied the game with a touchdown. Then, on the next 49ers possession, Garoppolo missed an open Brandon Aiyuk on fourth-and-6.
Garoppolo had a few missed chances that really affected this game. Another that stood out was what would have been a walk-in touchdown from Kyle Juszczyk that Garoppolo just missed in the first half. That was probably the worst play from Thursday night. 49ers fans can blame the secondary's inability to cover Brown or just the offense's second-half struggles in general for this loss, but I'm chalking it up to Garoppolo and a handful of missed opportunities.
This one came down to a game-winning drive, but one play Tannehill made had fans breathing a collective sigh of relief. With just over a minute left to play, Tannehill scrambled up the middle for 23 yards. It got the Titans into field goal position, and virtually sealed the game.
Play of the game
Free-play play! Tie game, third down, last play of the third quarter, Tannehill draws a defender offsides and then throws it up to his guy Brown in one-on-one coverage. Of course he came through for a gain of 42 yards. This was a huge play, not only in converting the third-and-long, but also because of the momentum it created heading into the fourth quarter. Four plays later, Brown stole the lead with an 18-yard touchdown catch.
"The Colts are a really good team, but I'm praying on their downfall right now." -- A.J. Brown on the AFC South playoff picture
The 49ers have another AFC South opponent next up on the docket, as they will return to San Francisco to host the Houston Texans. They will then finish out the regular season at the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 9. As for the Titans, they will stay in Nashville and prepare to host the Miami Dolphins next Sunday. Tennessee will finish out the regular season against the Texans in Houston the next Sunday.
Incredible win by the Boys! 10-5!!!— Taylor Lewan (@TaylorLewan77) December 24, 2021
GRITTY GRITTY WIN— Elijah Molden (@ElijahMolden24) December 24, 2021
THANK YOU LORD!!!!! 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾— Rodger Saffold (@Rodger_Saffold) December 24, 2021
RANDYYYYY🙌🏾— Marcus Johnson (@Mojomdj) December 24, 2021
Titans hold on last place, defeat the 49ers 20-17. Titans can clinch division if the Cardinals can beat the Colts on Saturday. 49ers fall to 8-7 but still have a shot at gettin the No. 7 spot in the NFC playoffs.
Hooked left but ultimately goes through the uprights with four seconds left.
Randy Bullock to attempt the game-winning field goal. He's 22 of 26 on FG attempts this season and was 2 of 2 last week in Pittsburgh.
Garoppolo hasn't been great, but he's 25 of 34 306 yards. He's had a ton of success getting the ball to Samuel, who is up to 143 yards on eight catches.
Brandon Aiyuk ties the score. Excellent formation by the 49ers, who bunched three receivers on the right and the Titans just lost Aiyuk in the shuffle.
Samuel continues to amaze. Gains 56 yards to help put the 49ers in position to tie the game. Fulton slipped on the play which allowed Samuel to get inside the Titans red zone. Samuel slow to get up.
What defense from Kristian Fulton. The second-year pro out of LSU has quietly turned into one of the better man coverage guys. Big play.