Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota had the night off, and so did the rest of the team’s starters.
Thursday night in the Windy City was a night reserved for the back-ups, and roster hopefuls, many looking to make one final impression on the Titans – and the rest of the NFL.
Some made very good ones.
The Titans rallied for a 19-15 win over the Chicago Bears on Thursday night at Soldier Field, which wrapped up the preseason for both teams. Quarterback Logan Wooside guided a scoring drive in the closing minutes, and running back Dalyn Dawkins provided 117 rushing yards and two receiving touchdowns.
Woodside connected with Dawkins for a three-yard touchdown with 1:25 left to lift the Titans to a win.
After the contest, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel immediately put things in perspective.
“It’s the unfortunate reality: Some of those guys we just won a football game with won’t be with us,” Vrabel said. “Some of them will go somewhere else and play, some of the will be with us. And some of them won’t play football again.
“I thanked them for their effort. It was cool to see everybody into it on the sideline. Guys were excited for all those guys out there that finished that game and competed.”
Now, the focus turns to the regular season opener on September 8 at Cleveland.
But first, roster cuts.
All NFL teams must be down to 53 players by 3 p.m. CT on Saturday. The Titans currently have 89 players on their 90-man roster, counting former Packers linebacker Reggie Gilbert, who was acquired in a trade – pending a physical.
Woodside started Thursday night’s contest and played the entire game. He finished the night completing 17-of-29 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 104.4. In four preseason contests, Woodside completed 46-of-76 passes for 539 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was an impressive 99.6.
“It was a huge opportunity, and I just went out there and tried to make the most of it,” Woodside said. “I just wanted to be a leader, and I wanted to make some plays. Whatever happens now, I am excited for it. It is not up to me now, and whatever is meant to be will be.”
Dawkins led the Titans rushing attack, and he also caught a pair of three-yard touchdowns.
After the Bears jumped ahead 12-0, Woodside engineered a four-play, 75-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Dawkins. The touchdown was set up by a pair of big throws from Woodside – a 45-yard completion to receiver Kalif Raymond, and a 19-yard toss to receiver Cody Hollister. A missed extra point by kicker Ryan Succop kept the score 12-6, and that was the score at halftime.
A 33-yard field goal by Succop cut the lead to 12-9 with 9:13 left in the third quarter a drive that was highlighted by a 19-yard run from Dawkins and a 23-yard completion from Woodside to receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams. But the Bears answered back with a field goal by Eddy Piniero, his third of the night.
Succop added another field goal – from 23 yards – to make it 15-12 with 10:26 left in the contest. The drive featured a pair of nice runs from Dawkins, a completion to receiver Cody Hollister, and a scramble by Woodside for a first down.
Just like on the offensive side of the ball, the Titans also rested their starters on defense.
Linebacker Derick Roberson was among the defensive stars, producing two sacks.
“It felt real good,” Roberson said. “Any time you can get to the quarterback it feels good. The focus was all the way there tonight. It was the last chance, and I wanted to make the most of it. The energy was definitely different.”
The Bears jumped out to a 6-0 lead on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bray to Jesper Horsted before getting a pair of first half field goals from Piniero.
The Titans finished the preseason with a 2-2 mark.