MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – After spending the week in the North Star State, the Titans packed their bags and headed south on Saturday night.
In their suitcases back to Nashville: A win.
The Titans beat the Vikings 24-16 here at U.S. Bank Stadium in preseason game No.2. The game wrapped up a week’s worth of work for the two teams, after they held joint practices here on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I thought we were physical,” Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said. “I thought we were able to run the football. I loved the way we came out and responded in the second half after not having a very good first half – that was fun to watch.”
Malik Willis started at quarterback for the Titans against the Vikings, and he played the entire way. Back-up Will Levis was in uniform, but he did not play after leaving the Thursday practice early with an injury. Mason Kinsey took a few snaps at QB, but Willis guided this win, with the help of the team’s running game, and a defense that was stingy most of the way.
Willis completed 10-of-17 passes for 85 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the contest, and he also ran for 91 yards on 11 carries.
“We won, so that’s a plus,” Willis said. “I think the first half we had a few details to clean up, and the second half we came out and everybody was violent and physical and we scored some points, so that was good.”
The Titans were a little shaky out of the gate, as the offense went three-and-out in their first two drives, hurting themselves with drops and missed opportunities to make plays.
But rookie running back Tyjae Spears erased a lot of that from memory with a highlight-reel run from 33 yards out. After taking the handoff, Spears busted through the line and then hurdle a Vikings defender on the way to the end zone, which made it 7-0 Titans in the first quarter.
The Titans couldn’t get much going the rest of the half, as the Vikings took the lead thanks to three straight field goals from kicker Greg Joseph, which made it 9-7 lead at the half.
The Titans played bend-but-don’t break defense in the red zone while keeping the Vikings out of the end zone in the first half. Caleb Murphy and Rashad Weaver recorded back-to-back sacks during one defensive series. Murphy later added another sack in the contest, giving him two for the game, and three for the preseason.
“I pride myself in doing what I do – I am here for a reason,” Murphy said. “But there’s a lot of work to still be done, a lot of things to clean up. But I am very proud of myself – two sacks is big, and we got the win, that’s the most important thing.”
In the third quarter, the Titans regained the lead, 10-9, on a 22-yard field goal by kicker Trey Wolff. The score was set up by a 55-yard run from running back Julius Chestnut.
Later, Chestnut scored on a five-yard touchdown run to give the Titans a 17-9 lead in the third quarter.
A one-yard touchdown pass from Willis to Chestnut with 12:21 left in the contest made it 24-9 Titans.
The Vikings made it 24-16 with 5:50 left on a one-yard run by DeWayne McBride.
But the Titans made plays at the end, and ran out the clock to secure their first win of the preseason.
Chestnut finished the game with 98 rushing yards on 13 carries, while Spears totaled 57 yards on seven carries.
“Watching Tyjae running, hurdling a guy, and scoring, that was obviously a beautiful sight,” Chestnut said with a smile. “We kept rolling after that, everybody. Everybody was getting into it.”
The Titans played the game with primarily backups, although the team’s first-team offensive line played the first three series.
The Titans are scheduled for joint practices with the New England Patriots in Nashville on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of Friday’s preseason game.