The Tennessee Titans took the field without the NFL’s leading rusher in Derrick Henry and proved they belonged, displaying a stout defensive performance in route to beating the Los Angeles Rams 28-16 on Sunday evening at SoFi stadium.
The Titans improved to 7-2 and kept its AFC South lead with the win, while the Rams fell into second in the NFC West behind the Arizona Cardinals, snapping their four-game winning streak with the loss.
“Tonight, was not the reflection of who we are,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Los Angeles was sacked five times as play caller Matthew Stafford struggled to find a rhythm, throwing two interceptions on the night.
“Those guys played fantastic,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of his defense. “It was fun to watch them play. … We really think that group is playing with a lot of confidence right now. They would be able to come in here and play the way they did and hold them to field goals, and we played great in red zone.”
Titans linebacker David Long Jr. picked off Stafford in the second quarter and returned it to the Rams 2-yard line. Ryan Tannehill connected with tight end Geoff Swaim for a two-yard touchdown pass moments later.
On the first play of the very next drive, defensive back Kevin Byard intercepted Stafford’s second consecutive bad pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to extend the Titans lead to 14-3. Tannehill then converted a one-yard rushing score with 2:10 left in the second to complete 21 unanswered points for Tennessee.
“I basically spotted them 14 points,” said Stafford, who threw his 24th pick-6 of his career. “Just wasn’t good enough early in the game. The turnovers are on me. Our defense played good. If we don’t turn over the ball tonight, we’ve got a chance.”
Los Angeles committed 12 penalties for 115 yards, none more crushing than the one called on their defensive anchor in Aaron Donald.
Donald was called for roughing the passer while Tannehill threw the ball away on third down with five minutes remaining to play in the fourth.
“We have to play cleaner football,” McVay said. “I want to see what we learn from our response. The last time we had a setback, I liked how we responded. … A lot of things happened tonight that are uncharacteristic of us.”
“I felt like we knew what to expect,” Donald said. “They stuck with their game plan, with running and play-action. Just a different back in there.”
The penalty extended the drive, allowing Tennessee to score again after newly acquired running back Adrian Peterson found the endzone two minutes later, giving the Titans its largest lead of the game with a commanding 28-9 advantage.
Peterson recorded his 119th career rushing score and 125th total touchdown, proving his value remains steady in his 15th NFL season.
“I thought he brought an energy and a professionalism,” Vrabel said.
Sony Michel caught a 3-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left for the Rams, but it was the Titans who left with the dominant 28-16 victory after nearly holding Los Angeles scoreless from the endzone.
The Rams will next travel to take on the San Francisco 49ers (3-5) on Monday night at 5:15 p.m.