The Tennessee Titans were supposed to be looking ahead to their regular-season finale on Jan. 8 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That game will decide which wins the AFC South’s playoff berth, and Thursday night’s contest against the Dallas Cowboys had no bearing on that.
On Wednesday, Tennessee had declared eight players out for the Thursday night game. In Nashville, the Titans, despite a five-game losing streak, kept Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry sidelined for the entire game and started Joshua Dobbs at quarterback eight days after he joined the team from the Detroit Lions’ practice squad.
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On the other sideline, Dallas’ two losses in its past nine games had come in overtime, and the Cowboys remained in contention for the NFC East title and the conference’s No. 1 playoff seed.
But entering the fourth quarter, Dallas led by only four points on its way to a 27-13 victory.
“I’m sure that everybody expected us to just lay down,” Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said. “And I know that we didn’t do that.”
Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill missed Sunday’s game because of an ankle injury, and on Thursday, the Titans placed him on injured reserve.
Rookie Malik Willis started Sunday’s 19-14 loss to the Houston Texans, and he had started two games earlier in the season when Tannehill was out. In his three starts, Willis completed 25-of-49 passes for 234 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions and ran 20 times for 95 yards and one touchdown.
In his first start in six NFL seasons, Dobbs completed 20-of-39 passes for 232 yards with one touchdown and one interception and ran for 12 yards on three carries. Dobbs also lost a fumble.
“We’re excited about having Malik,” Vrabel said after the game. “We are. We’re excited about some of the things that he’s done, and we’ll continue to digest this over the weekend and kind of make a decision. Malik has worked hard. But then we kind of just have to see where we’re at with the quarterback position going down here to the last week of the season.”
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completed 29-of-41 passes for 282 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Prescott closed the first half with three straight turnovers, also losing a fumble. The Titans got field goals after both interceptions.
Tennessee was penalized 10 times for 124 yards, including a 51-yard mark-off for defensive pass interference on a third-down incompletion before the first of Prescott’s two TD passes to tight end Dalton Schultz in the second half.
Four players from Alabama high schools and colleges got on the field during the Dallas-Tennessee game:
· Titans linebacker Zach Cunningham (Pinson Valley) is on injured reserve and not eligible to play. Cunningham returned to injured reserve for the second time this season on Thursday because of an elbow problem.
· Trevon Diggs (Alabama) started at cornerback for the Cowboys. Diggs made one tackle and broke up one pass.
· Titans defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama) is on injured reserve and not eligible to play.
· Titans running back Derrick Henry (Alabama) was designated as a game-day inactive.
· Titans center Ben Jones (Bibb County) is on injured reserve and not eligible to play.
· Roger McCreary (Williamson, Auburn) started at cornerback for the Titans. McCreary made three tackles and broke up a pass.
· Monty Rice (James Clemens) started at linebacker for the Titans. Rice led Tennessee with a career-high 13 tackles and recorded one tackle for loss. Rice surpassed the 12 tackles he made in a 36-22 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 11.
· Cowboys defensive tackle Anthony Rush (UAB) is on the practice squad and not eligible to play.
· Jalen Tolbert (McGill-Toolen, South Alabama) was designated as a game-day inactive.
· Cowboys defensive end Sam Williams (Lee-Montgomery) registered one quarterback hit.
· Titans quarterback Malik Willis (Auburn) dressed for the game but did not play.
Dallas improved to 12-4. If the Cowboys can’t overtake the Philadelphia Eagles in their division, they’ll be the top wild-card team in the NFC field and open the postseason at the NFC South champion.
Tennessee dropped to 7-9 with their sixth consecutive loss. But the Titans still will host an AFC playoff game if they win at Jacksonville on Jan. 8.
The Cowboys close their regular-season schedule on Jan. 8 by visiting the Washington Commanders.
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.
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