Titans overcome kicking woes, beat Broncos
Gostkowski avoids disasterous debut with new team, lifts Tennessee to 16-14 win over Denver
DENVER — A day after Tom Brady’s dud of a debut for Tampa Bay, Stephen Gostkowski failed to put all that Patriots pedigree to work in his first game with the Tennessee Titans.
Until the very end.
Unlike Brady, who lost his first game in a uniform other than New England’s, Gostkowski prevailed Monday night when he nailed a 25-yard field goal with 17 seconds left, sending the Titans past the Denver Broncos 16-14 after he missed four kicks for the first time in his career.
“I really wanted to come out and make a strong first impression,” Gostkowski said. “I did the exact opposite.”
Gostkowski missed a kick in each quarter, including a blocked field goal and an errant extra point.
It didn’t matter in the end.
“We’re happy to get a win,” Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “Any win in the NFL is a good win. I’ll take it. They don’t put any asterisks on it in the win column.”
Titans coach and ex-teammate Mike Vrabel said he had no qualms about sending Gostkowski out for another try,
“Nope, and they did, obviously, because they weren’t using their timeouts and they were banking on him missing,” Vrabel said. “We’ve all got to do our job. And again, it’s not on just one player. We’ll get this stuff fixed. We’ve got a lot of faith in our players. Excited to get out of here with a win. This is a tough place to play.”
Gostkowski missed every way you can think of: wide left, wide right, a block and a shanked extra point that loomed large until he atoned for his awful night in the final seconds.
“You can’t expect him to miss them all,” said Broncos defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who was traded from Tennessee in the offseason.
Gostkowski never missed three field goals in a game during his 14 seasons in New England, where he won three Super Bowl rings, made four Pro Bowls and left this offseason as the Patriots’ all-time leading scorer.
On Thursday he joined the Titans, who had the worst field goal unit in the NFL last year when their first four kickers combined to connect on only 44.4 percent of field goals (8 for 18).
Gostkowski appreciated the support.
“I just got here and come out here and play like that? For the guys to still support me and still have my back was pretty good,” Gostkowski said. “That’s the cool thing about team sports — you win and lose as a team. A position like mine, everybody sees when you screw up.
“That’s why I was grateful for the opportunity at the end, because the guys deserved the win. We’re all pros here. We’ve all had our days. But the kicking position, you miss a couple of kicks, the camera follows you around, they talk about you the whole time, they watch you. It can get to a lonely spot. But you have to keep your head high and keep on going.”
Gostkowski, who had made 87.4 percent of his kicks coming into the game, a percentage that ranked fifth-best in NFL history, missed a 47-yarder in the first quarter and Shelby Harris blocked his 43-yarder just before halftime. Gostkowski’s 42-yarder in the third quarter was wide left and he missed the PAT following Tennessee’s go-ahead touchdown on Jonnu Smith’s catch from Ryan Tannehill on fourth-and-1 with 13:49 remaining.
Denver replied with a 75-yard drive, with Melvin Gordon taking it in from a yard out, and Brandon McManus’ extra point put the Broncos up 14-13 with 9 minutes left.
The Broncos punted on their next two possessions and the Titans made them pay with a 12-play, 83-yard, game-winning scoring drive.
Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans was ejected after throwing a punch at Broncos tight end Jake Butt late in the first quarter.
There were no paying spectators but about 500 guests of players and coaches were in the stands as a sort of trial run for the Broncos’ next home game, against Brady and Tampa Bay in two weeks, when 5,700 fans will be allowed into the 70,000-seat Empower Field at Mile High.
Broncos quarterback Drew Lock missed having the home crowd’s energy in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, that would have been sweet,” he said. “It was definitely weird out there tonight. No noise. The timeouts, it was just quiet. I wanted to call the plays quiet in the huddle because I didn’t know if they could hear us.”
Tennessee 0 7 0 9–16
Denver 7 0 0 7–14
Den–Fant 9 pass from Lock (McManus kick), :26.
Ten–Pruitt 1 pass from Tannehill (Gostkowski kick), 9:21.
Ten–J.Smith 1 pass from Tannehill (kick failed), 13:49.
Den–Gordon 1 run (McManus kick), 9:08.
Ten–FG Gostkowski 25, :17.
First downs 26 19
Total Net Yards 377 323
Rushes-yards 34-130 26-107
Passing 247 216
Punt Returns 3-19 2-16
Kickoff Returns 1-19 0-0
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 29-43-0 22-33-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-2 0-0
Punts 4-51.0 5-46.4
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 4-1
Penalties-Yards 5-37 5-56
Time of Possession 32:40 27:20
RUSHING–Tennessee, Henry 31-116, Tannehill 3-14. Denver, Gordon 15-78, Lindsay 7-24, Lock 3-5, Freeman 1-0.
PASSING–Tennessee, Tannehill 29-43-0-249. Denver, Lock 22-33-0-216.
RECEIVING–Tennessee, C.Davis 7-101, Humphries 6-47, A.Brown 5-39, J.Smith 4-36, Henry 3-15, Firkser 2-5, Blasingame 1-5, Pruitt 1-1. Denver, Fant 5-81, Jeudy 4-56, Patrick 4-29, Gordon 3-8, Hamilton 1-18, Freeman 1-12, Lindsay 1-11, Cleveland 1-7, Butt 1-0, Vannett 1-(minus 6).
MISSED FIELD GOALS–Tennessee, Gostkowski 47, Gostkowski 44, Gostkowski 42.