Titans Recover to Defeat Niners With Late FG 20–17

By Nhat Hoang
Nhat Hoang
Nhat Hoang
December 24, 2021 Updated: December 24, 2021

Following a dominating first half by the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday that began week 16 of the NFL, the scoreless Tennessee Titans turned the tide for a come-back victory on a last-minute field goal in Nashville 20–17.

Titans kicker Randy Bullock barely placed a 44-yard field goal just inside the left upright, leaving only 4 seconds left in the game to improve their record to 10–5.

Despite losing three of their last four games, the Titans are one win away, or a Colts’ loss, from securing their second straight AFC South title.

After losing backup left tackle to a positive COVID-19 protocol, the Titans added a 52nd starter and 88th total player to their roster.

The Niners entered the game playing with much confidence winning five out of their last six games. The loss drops them to 8–7 and assures the Dallas Cowboys a spot in the playoffs, but the Niners’ hopes for a wild-card berth remain high.

The Niners scored a touchdown on the opening drive that covered 75 yards on nine plays. Their defense stopped the Titans to quickly regain possession.

Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo marched the offense 72 yards but would throw an interception on a 2nd and goal from the eight-yard line to Janoris Jenkins.

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws as he is pressured by Tennessee Titans defenders in the second half of an NFL football game, in Nashville, on Dec. 23, 2021. (Wade Payne/AP Photo)

Garoppolo completed 26 of 35 attempts for 322 yards but would throw another pick in the third quarter to Amani Hooker who returned it 21 yards.

This set up the Titans’ first touchdown of 18 yards on four plays, capped off by D’onta Foreman’s three-yard rush to tie the game at 10–10.

Garoppolo countered driving the Niners 95 yards, to tie the game 17–17, culminating in a-yard TD pass to Brandon Aiyuk with 2:20 remaining.

The touchdown was set up by a 56-yard catch and run by Deebo Samuel to the Titans’ six-yard line. A duel threat, he led the game with 159 yards receiving and 32 yards rushing.

This was the first time Niners coach Kyle Shanahan had lost after gaining a ten-point lead; he was 18–0 in his career.

“I thought we could have got three scores from those drives, we didn’t (but) we’re still up ten–zero,” said Shanahan. “That opening third quarter was rough. Our defense did great except for third down. Then our first play in the third quarter on offense was a pick, which that was a real bad one; should not have thrown that. Glad that we tied it up there at the end. But they came back and finished it on the final drive.”

The Titans took a touchdown lead 17–10 early in the fourth quarter after a 59-yard drive that finished with A.J. Brown’s 18-yard reception from QB Ryan Tannehill.

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Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) passes against the San Francisco 49ers in the second half of an NFL football game, in Nashville, on Dec. 23, 2021. (Wade Payne/AP Photo)

Tannehill completed 22 of 29 for 209 yards and the single TD pass; he completed just 40 yards in the first half.

“We stuck together and kept believing; we believe in each other,” said Tannehill. “We’ve been through a lot this year, and it’s only made us stronger. Things weren’t going our way early but we battled through and found a way in the end.”

Tannehill made the biggest play on the final drive rushing for 22 yards up the middle, ultimately setting up the winning field goal.

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Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) catches a touchdown pass as he is defended by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Josh Norman, left, in the second half of an NFL football game, in Nashville, on Dec. 23, 2021. (Mark Zaleski/AP Photo)

“A.J. special; he’s a special player and I missed him,” added Tannehill. “It’s great to have him back. He’s out there making plays all over the field; inside, outside, everywhere.”

Brown caught 11 passes for 145 yards to include the TD reception in the third quarter.

“I’m truly blessed to be back here and playing a game that I love,” said Brown. “I had a tough injury, somehow I healed pretty quickly. I don’t even know if I’m supposed to be out here right now, but I had a good day today.”

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Tennessee Titans running back D’Onta Foreman celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers in the second half of an NFL football game, in Nashville, on Dec. 23, 2021. (Wade Payne/AP Photo)
Nhat Hoang