It seemed only fitting that the Tennessee Titans won the AFC South title on a last-second field goal made by a backup kicker against division rival Houston.
Some would argue that Tennessee shouldn’t have needed to go to the wire with the 4-12 Texans to pull off a win, and they’re correct.
It took the best game of Derrick Henry’s career — 34 carries, 250 yards, two touchdowns. It took a spectacular 52-yard throw from Ryan Tannehill to a streaking A.J. Brown in the final minute to set up that game-winning field goal.
It took a field goal attempt that looked destined to miss — before bouncing off the right upright and then clearing the crossbar — from a backup kicker who was cut midseason by another team only to find his way to Nashville in the biggest moment of his career.
“I told them I'm fortunate and proud to be their coach, and they don't quit, they don't give in,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “I know that there are times where you could [quit]. Unfortunately, that happens sometimes in this league. They didn't. They battled back.”
Vrabel has never been afraid to gamble. After Houston tied it with a 51-yard field goal with 18 seconds left, it was all but assumed overtime was coming. With the division championship and No. 4 seed on the line, the 45-year-old head coach had other plans.
From his own 25-yard line, Tannehill dropped back and knew where he wanted to go. Luckily for him, Houston’s safeties let Brown break into the secondary. Fifty-two yards later, cornerback Keion Crossen found himself looking up as Brown celebrated with Corey Davis as the Titans were in field goal range.
“I asked Coach Vrabel as the kickoff team was lining up what was the plan,” Tannehill said. “I said, ‘Are we going? Are we taking it to overtime?’ He said, ‘We are going.’ At that point, it was just get ready to go. Didn't know what call was coming in or what the defense was going to look like.”
From there, Sam Sloman did the rest. The 23-year-old looked shaky in pregame warmups, not connecting on any attempts from 50 yards out. However, Sloman was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts and hit all five of his extra points, and while his final kick wasn’t pretty, he got the job done.
“I saw [the kick] hit off the post and my stomach sank. Then I saw it drop down and I think I said, ‘I think it might have went in.’ Sure enough, refs put their hands up and it was in.”
The win wraps up a division title and ensures the Titans will host a playoff game at Nissan Stadium, both of which last happened in 2008. The bad news is the last time the Titans hosted a playoff game, they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, the same franchise Tennessee welcomes next week.
“It's never easy in this league and I hope that everybody appreciates that,” Vrabel said. “We don't take winning for granted. Proud of our guys, our coaches, for the work they put in, and the entire organization.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_