Titans’ rookie quarterback Will Levis got his first taste of losing as a starting quarterback as Tennessee fell 20-16 to the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
“Losing sucks,” Levis said via the team’s official website. “It’s so hard to win games, and when you have an opportunity like that to win it at the end, and it doesn’t happen, it makes you feel a whole lot worse. Credit to them — they made the plays when they needed to, and we didn’t.”
Levis, who shined with a four-TD day in his first career start on Sunday, didn’t throw a TD on Thursday night but flashed plenty of positives. He finished 22-of-39 for 262 yards and an interception.
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The counting numbers don’t tell the story of Levis’ night. The rookie showed fearlessness standing in versus the Steelers pass rushers despite a banged-up Titans offensive line that shuffled bodies in and out throughout the game. The ball leaps out of his hands, with an arm cannon that allows him to fit the ball into tight windows and get away with some throws other QBs have no shot at. In his second start, the rookie displayed solid processing and good pre-snap recognition.
It wasn’t all pretty. His willingness to sit in the pocket and wait for routes led to a few sacks that could have been avoided, including one on the final drive. He had a few misfires and got away with several would-be interceptions. Then came the game-sealing INT in the end zone with six seconds remaining.
“You don’t lose it late — there’s always other things that go into it, opportunities missed, or their ability to make a play when they needed to,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “It’s good to see us continue to fight … and have an opportunity.”
After allowing an opening drive TD, the Titans held the lead for the bulk of the second half, but a few missed plays on defense and an end zone holding penalty allowed Pittsburgh to take the lead with under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Tennessee’s 1-of-4 red zone conversions heavily factored into the loss as they outgained Pittsburgh 340 yards to 326 and generated more first downs. The Titans got the ball back twice with a chance to take the lead late. On the first, Tennessee called a third-and-4 run instead of putting the ball in Levis’ hands, which led to a low-percentage fourth-down throw and a turnover on downs. The game’s only interception ultimately ended the threat.
“It sucks to lose,” receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine said. “We really wanted this one, we really wanted to get the momentum going. And now it’s back to work, and we have to fight to get that momentum back.”
The Titans fell to 3-5 on the season, currently last in the AFC South, but even in the loss, there is good news: Levis looks legit through eight quarters.
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