The Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys had 15 days off before their clash Monday night at AT&T Stadium, which left plenty of room for talking heads to analyze and over-analyze the match up.
And in those 15 days we all heard, ad nauseam, how Tennessee’s anemic offense had no shot against Dallas’ top ranked scoring defense.
In fact, that was the only mention of Tennessee leading up to that contest…in two whole weeks.
But when the final buzzer sounded late Monday night, it was Tennessee’s defense that stole the spotlight….and the top spot from America’s team.
The fact that few nationally knew or cared to report that Tennessee’s defense was just as formidable was a sign of disrespect to a young and talented band of small-market brothers.
And they had the perfect platform to stake their claim among the league’s best.
The Titans owned the league’s stingiest redzone defense entering the contest, as well as the league’s third-stingiest defense in points allowed per game. Both qualities were on full display in Tennessee’s resounding 28-14 victory.
After a disastrous start by the offense that included two fumbles on their side of the field their first two offensive possessions, Tennessee’s defense flexed their redzone muscles.
Dallas was held to a field goal attempt on their first drive after moving the ball at will between the 20’s, and the kick sailed wide right.
After Tennessee’s second turnover, the Cowboys were inside the Titans’ 10 yard line and looking to take a commanding 14-0 lead, but Kevin Byard intercepted Dak Prescott in the end zone on a play that may have saved Tennessee’s season.
The offense, seemingly rejuvenated from the close call, drove the length of the field to tie it at 7.
After the pick, Byard sprinted toward the coveted star at the Cowboys’ 50 yard line. He stood, arms wide, reminiscent of T.O.’s infamous gesture 20 years earlier. His teammates joined him, almost as if to protect him should the move ruffle a few feathers.Embed from Getty Images
But as it unfolded, it was Prescott and company that would need protection from that point forward.
Tennessee finished the night with 5 sacks, Byard’s pick, and a fumble recovery on the night. They also held star running back Zeke Elliott to zero yards in the fourth quarter while pitching a second-half shutout.
A second half shutout that catapulted the Titans’ “no-name” defense over Dallas as the league’s best in points allowed per game.
And they did it on the biggest stage of the season, Monday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys….in their home stadium.
While it was good to see the defense have their day in the spotlight after playing well enough to have won two or three more games, it was poetic justice that their offensive counterparts….who have struggled mightily this season…helped their defense to the top spot by scoring a season-high 28 points of their own against then-number one Dallas.
That’s what you call a team victory.