NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Malik Willis shook off a rough start while passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tennessee Titans to a 23-7 victory Friday night over the New England Patriots in the teams’ preseason finale.
Ryan Tannehill started and handed off three times in his lone action this preseason before putting on a ballcap for the rest of the night for the Titans (2-1).
New England (1-2) rested much of its starters with Bailey Zappe starting at quarterback. The Patriots managed just 79 yards total offense.
Tennessee had six sacks and forced a turnover with most of the Titans’ starters playing the first quarter.
With rookie Will Levis missing a second straight game with an injured left thigh, Willis made his case to back up Tannehill again this season.
The 86th pick in the 2022 draft struggled in the first quarter, going 1 of 5 for 22 yards. He also threw a pass that went behind tight end Josh Whyle and off the rookie’s hands to Patriots linebacker Calvin Munson late in the quarter.
Willis flipped a switch in the second, completing all eight of his passes for 115 yards and a 12-yard TD pass to Julius Chestnut just before halftime. That capped a 90-yard drive for a 13-7 halftime lead. He tossed a 26-yard TD pass to undrafted rookie receiver Kearis Jackson early in the fourth quarter.
He actually didn’t have a pass hit the ground after the first quarter. Midway through the third, Willis threw to a wide-open Patriots linebacker Joe Giles-Harris for the Titans quarterback’s second interception of the game.
These teams had been scheduled to practice together Tuesday and Wednesday until Patriots cornerback Isaiah Bolden was carted off the field in Green Bay last weekend. New England alerted the Titans that night that plans had changed, with the Patriots returning home for a couple practices.
Three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, three-time Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry, two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons and linemate Teair Tart all warmed up. Then they came out for kickoff without pads and watched from the Tennessee sideline.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones dressed but did not play. Zappe came back in in the third quarter.
WATCH THE KICKERS
Chad Ryland, the Patriots’ fourth-round pick out of Maryland, hit the crossbar on a kickoff to show off his strong leg as he pushes veteran Nick Folk for the kicker’s job.
Michael Badgley, who signed and practiced with Tennessee for the first time Tuesday, didn’t help his case to make the final roster. He made a 44-yard field goal that banked in off the left upright while also making two more from 27 and 33 yards. But Badgley also hooked a 39-yard field goal wide left.
Titans starting right guard Daniel Brunskill went to the locker room with a knee injury. Riley Reiff, who started at right guard for New England, also left with an right leg injury among the few starters playing for the Patriots.
Whyle went to the locker room in the fourth quarter with an injured ankle.
Patriots host Philadelphia on Sept. 10 to open the season.
Titans open season Sept. 10 visiting New Orleans.
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