NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- On paper, the Tennessee Titans didn't have much of a chance to compete with the New Orleans Saints without running back Derrick Henry. Tennessee managed to jump out to a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter thanks to a 41-yard touchdown reception by Jonnu Smith and a 49-yard touchdown run by A.J. Brown. However, the Titans didn't have a consistent ground game, and 24 unanswered points put New Orleans ahead. The Titans couldn't muster enough offense to come back in a 38-28 loss.
Despite the loss, the Titans are still in the hunt for a wild-card spot, but they'll need to beat the Houston Texans on the road next week to get there.
Buy on a breakout performance: Rookie outside linebacker Derick Roberson found a groove and had 2.5 sacks. The Titans used him on a stunt, having him loop to the inside from his outside linebacker position, allowing him to combine with Jurrell Casey on a Drew Brees sack. Roberson is a talented pass-rusher who struggled a bit in training camp but is benefiting from extra work with OLB coach Shane Bowen and some much-needed game snaps.
Bold prediction for next week: Henry missed this week's game due to a sore hamstring. A rested Henry will return against the Texans and rush for more than 100 yards and score two touchdowns against the Texans, who will likely rest some starters, as they've wrapped up the AFC South title and could be locked into the No. 4 seed regardless of the Week 17 outcome.
QB breakdown: Tannehill held on to the ball too long as the pass rush closed on him a couple of times. He did find a way to buy time and connect with Tajae Sharpe on a broken play that resulted in a 36-yard catch and score in the fourth quarter. He stared down the pass rush and delivered a well-placed pass to Sharpe in the back of the end zone for another score. Overall, it was a tough day for Tannehill, as he was under constant duress. He completed 17 of his 27 attempts for 272 yards and three touchdowns.
Pivotal play: The Titans took over at their 38-yard line down by three points with 4:23 to go after a failed fake punt attempt by the Saints. Tannehill found Kalif Raymond on a double move for a 23-yard gain, but safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson knocked it loose, and New Orleans recovered. The hit looked like it could have drawn a defenseless receiver or possibly helmet-to-helmet penalty, but there was no penalty called. The Saints put the game away for good by way of a Michael Thomas touchdown reception when they took over.