With loss to Saints, Titans look to final week for playoff push

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Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is sacked for a 10-yard loss by New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Demario Davis (56) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Drew Brees threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns and Alvin Kamara ran for two TDs as the New Orleans Saints kept their chase of the NFC’s No. 1 seed alive by rallying from a 14-point deficit to beat the Tennessee Titans 38-28 Sunday.

The Saints (12-3) had to win after San Francisco beat the Rams 34-31 on Saturday night. They scored 24 straight points to keep alive their chance at one of the NFC’s top two seeds and a first-round playoff bye going into their regular-season finale at Carolina.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas also set the NFL record for most catches in a season. The Saints receiver needed 10 to tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison’s mark of 143 catches in 2002. Thomas finished with 12 catches for 136 yards, his last reception a 2-yard TD with 2:10 left for a 38-28 lead.

The Titans (8-7) still have a shot at the AFC’s final playoff berth after Houston won the AFC South title beating Tampa Bay on Saturday. The Jets beating Pittsburgh 16-10 means the Titans must beat the Texans in Houston in the finale to earn their second playoff berth in three seasons.

Tennessee had the ball with 4:24 left and down 31-28. The Saints turned over the ball after lining up for a punt and snapping the ball short to Taysom Hill. He threw to a wide-open Justin Hardee Sr., who dropped the ball.

On the next play, Ryan Tannehill threw to Kalif Raymond to the New Orleans 40. Saints rookie safety C.J Gardner-Johnson hit Raymond, knocking the ball loose. Gardner-Johnson picked it up and ran 38 yards to the Titans 25.

Tennessee had one last chance. Tannehill threw incomplete to Tajae Sharpe in the end zone with 1:44 left to turn it over on downs.

The Titans sat Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry to rest the left hamstring that has limited him the past two weeks. Even without the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 1,329 yards, the Titans jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Tannehill hit Jonnu Smith for a 41-yard touchdown. Then the Titans got creative, handing off to rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown, who ran 49 yards for another TD and the 14-0 lead.

Then the Saints got going on offense, defense and special teams. New Orleans sacked Tannehill four times by halftime and finished with five.

Wil Lutz kicked a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter, his 32nd of the season and a franchise record. Brees threw to Jared Cook who ran to finish off a 61-yard TD for the Saints’ longest play from scrimmage this season, pulling New Orleans within 14-10 by halftime.

Alvin Kamara scored his first touchdown since Week 3, ending the longest scoring drought of his career at nine games with a 40-yard run. He added a 1-yard TD run.

Tannehill threw two TD passes to Sharpe, the last with 7:27 left pulling them within 31-28. The Titans outgained the Saints 397-377.

INJURIES

Saints cornerback Eli Apple hurt an ankle late in the first quarter, and safety Marcus Williams hurt a groin. That forced New Orleans to move cornerback P.J. Williams to safety.

Titans wide receiver Corey Davis was being evaluated for a concussion in the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT

Saints: wrap up the regular season visiting Carolina.

Titans: head to Houston trying to squeeze into the postseason.

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