Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) scores a touchdown catch against the San Francisco 49ers cornerback Josh Norman (left) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Thursday Night Football Dec 23, 2021 (AP News photo)
It was a tale straight out of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde novel.
Randy Bullock kicked a 44-yard field goal with four seconds left in the game to help the Tennessee Titans defeat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 on Thursday evening at Nissan Stadium.
San Francisco had its two-game winning streak snapped. They stayed as the sixth seed in the NFC and the second wild card spot.
Tennessee have won two of its past three games and remained in first place in the AFC South with two games remaining.
The 49ers dominated both sides of the ball in the first half as their defense contained the Titans offense. In the second half the tides turned to Tennessee’s favor as wide receiver AJ Brown couldn’t be stopped.
“”I’m frustrated. I think we could’ve won this one,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “You still have to play good enough on all three phases. We didn’t play good enough on third down and committed two turnovers and they had zero.”
San Francisco (8-6) scored on its opening drive. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led the offense on a nine-play drive totaling 75 yards that was capped off with a Jeff Wilson Jr one-yard rushing touchdown. Garoppolo was 5-5 for 59 yards.
Tennessee’s (9-5) Jackrabbit Jenkins intercepted Garoppolo inside the endzone to stall the 49ers second drive.
The 49ers went up 10-0 on a Robbie Gould 48-yard field goal on its third possession. The 11-play drive featured Garoppolo overthrowing a wide-open Kyle Juszczyk along the right sidelines, a fourth and one conversion by Deebo Samuel and a face mask penalty on Trent Williams which took San Francisco out of the red zone.
The Titans offense had no answer for the Niners defensive front in the first half as they managed just three first downs (compared to 13 for San Francisco) on its four offensive possessions of the half. San Francisco’s defense had four tackles for loss.
Tennessee came out to start the second half with a 13-play 55-yard drive that resulted in a Randy Bullock 38-yard field goal. The drive featured three third and down and long conversions by quarterback Ryan Tannehill to AJ Brown and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.
The 49ers offense gifted the Titans the ball on their first possession of the second half. Garoppolo threw his second interception when Amani Hooker picked off the ball and returned it to the 49ers 18-yard line.
The Titans took advantage as D’Onta Foreman rushed in for a three-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the drive to even the game at 10-10.
Tennessee’s defense forced a turnover on down when they stopped San Francisco’s attempt on a fourth and six from the Titans 40-yard line to keep the momentum on their side.
The Titans took its first lead of the game to open the fourth quarter when Tannehill connected with Brown for an 18-yard touchdown reception to complete a seven play 59-yard drive.
Brown, who played in his first game since suffering a chest injury back in Week 11, went off in the second half as the Niners defense played a soft zone and allowed him lots of room to jump start Tennessee’s offense which was dormant for the first 30 minutes. He finished with 11 catches for 145 yards and one touchdown.
Garoppolo, who had his own version of Jekyll and Hyde, redeemed himself when he led an eight play 95-yard drive in just under three minutes. The key play of the drive was a 56-yard reception to Samuel that set up San Francisco at the Titans five-yard line. The drive was capped off with a two-yard pass to Brandon Aiyuk to even the score at 17-17.
Garoppolo finished the game 26 of 35 for 322 yards and one touchdown and the two glaring interceptions. Samuel led the 49ers in receiving with nine catches for 159 yards and one touchdown. He also contributed 32 yards on the ground in five carries.
Tight end Geroge Kittle had a quiet game after three excellent games with only two catches for 21 yards on just three targets.
“Our best players didn’t play their best game…Deebo obviously played really well,” Kittle said.
Tennessee limited San Francisco to 83 rushing yards as their front seven dominated the trenches in the second half.
Tannehill finished 22 of 29 for 209 yards and one touchdown. He was 10 of 13 for just 40 yards in the first half but went 12 of 26 for 169 yards in the second half. His 23-yard scramble to the Niners 31-yard line set up Bullock’s game winning heroics.
GAME NOTES: San Francisco finished 3-for-8 on third down conversions. Tennessee was 9-for-16.
UP NEXT: San Francisco host their final home game of the regular season as they take on the Houston Texans on Sunday 1/2 at 1:05pm.