3 Takeaways from Titans' Week 16 Win
The Tennessee Titans missed A.J. Brown.
The AFC South side's No. 1 wide receiver marked his return to the field with 11 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Brown tortured the San Francisco 49ers secondary in Thursday's 20-17 win at Nissan Stadium that moved the team closer to the AFC South title.
Brown and Ryan Tannehill proved that the Titans could win a playoff-like game without Derrick Henry as long as they have a strong connection going.
It took some time for the Titans offense to score, but once it did, San Francisco had a hard time slowing down one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
Tennessee's defense also deserves credit for victory No. 10. The Titans picked off Jimmy Garoppolo twice and limited George Kittle's output to make life hard on the NFC West side.
Deep Playoff Run Is Possible with Healthy A.J. Brown
The 49ers had no answer for A.J. Brown.
The Titans' top pass-catcher did whatever he wanted in the second half as the Titans mounted their comeback from a 10-0 deficit.
The Pro Bowler caught the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Titans a seven-point lead, and he was a crucial part of many other drives. Brown produced 72 of his 145 receiving yards on the drive that produced his fourth touchdown catch of the season.
That drive was a perfect example of how Brown and Tannehill could connect to take advantage of matchups with an opposing secondary.
Brown's health is vital to the team's postseason success. The Titans struggled to find consistency at wide receiver in the four weeks he was out.
Thursday's win moved the Titans to 4-0 when Brown records over 90 receiving yards this season. They are also 5-1 when he has five or more receptions.
The Titans should give Brown some time on the field in Week 17 and can opt to rest him in Week 18 against the Houston Texans since the AFC South should be wrapped up by then. That would allow him to be fresh for the postseason run.
Titans Defense Shut Down George Kittle
George Kittle came into Nashville with one of the hottest streaks in the NFL, and he left with two catches and a loss.
The San Francisco tight end was not heard from most of the night. He only had three targets and 21 receiving yards.
That was a product of Tennessee's strong defense against tight ends. They have allowed the fifth-fewest yards to players at that position.
Kittle entered Thursday with 425 receiving yards in his last three games. The Titans ensured his impact on the San Francisco offense was minimal at best.
The shutdown of Kittle forced Jimmy Garoppolo out of a rhythm, limiting his threats in the passing game. Tennessee's containment made the 49ers quarterback target fullback Kyle Juszczyk on five occasions. Some of those targets came on routes typically run by wide receivers or tight ends.
Thursday gave the Titans another blueprint to a playoff victory. If they can contain Travis Kelce and other top tight ends in the AFC, they will have a clearer path to the Super Bowl.
Turnovers Made Massive Impact
Tennessee's two interceptions came at vital times of the contest.
The first pick made by Jackrabbit Jenkins took a touchdown away from Kittle and halted what could have been San Francisco's second straight scoring drive to begin the contest.
Amani Hooker earned the second interception in between Tennessee's scoring drives in the third quarter. The turnover occurred one play after Randy Bullock knocked in a 38-yard field goal.
Hooker's pick set up the offense with a short field, and that unit capitalized through a three-yard touchdown run from D'Onta Foreman.
The third quarter stretch flipped the momentum in the Titans' favor. They tied the game on Foreman's touchdown and Bullock's extra point, and the next offensive series resulted in Brown's touchdown catch.
The high turnover rate against postseason contenders is a positive sign for Tennessee's hopes of making a long run in January and February.
Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.