“Obviously wanted to come back and play well today after last week, so excited to be able to do that,” Tannehill said. “Felt great to be back out there and be able to pull out the win at the end, so made it a lot of fun.”
Derrick Henry had 80 yards and also ran for a touchdown.
The Chargers (0-2) now are mired in their first winless start since 2017 when they lost their first four games in both their first season in Los Angeles and first with then-coach Anthony Lynn.
Justin Herbert threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns to Keenan Allen. With the ball and 2:22 left in regulation, he was sacked by Harold Landry forcing the Chargers to settle for Cameron Dicker’s third field goal of the game to force overtime.
The Chargers won the coin toss. But Herbert threw three straight incompletions as Tennessee forced just its third three-and-out of the game.
“We had a tough time protecting the passer today and just didn’t do well enough in that phase to give us a chance to earn overtime,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said.
The Chargers now have lost five games under Stanley when leading by 10 or more, tied for second most in the NFL since 2021. Only Baltimore (six) has more in that span.
Herbert said there’s a lot of football left for the Chargers despite this start.
“We’re not where we want to be right now, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get there in a couple of weeks,” Herbert said.
Both teams played without key starters because of injuries. For the Chargers, running back Austin Ekeler (ankle) and linebacker Eric Kendricks, their biggest offseason addition, was sidelined by a sore hamstring.
Los Angeles at least had linebacker Joey Bosa active after he had been questionable with an injured hamstring. He had two of the Chargers’ five sacks.
The Titans already declared out two starters in their secondary with safety Amani Hooker in the concussion protocol and cornerback Kristian Fulton’s hamstring an issue again. Rookie left guard Peter Skoronski, the No. 11 pick overall out of Northwestern in April, was declared out Saturday with an illness.
Tennessee started Xavier Newman, but the Chargers ended back-to-back drives with sacks getting to Tannehill untouched. Dillon Radunz, who tore an ACL last December in a loss to the Chargers, took over in the second quarter.
“We were leaking oil, and we needed somebody to step up and make a play,” Vrabel said. “And that was a huge play.”
Folk’s 33-yard field goal pulled Tennessee within 14-10 as the first half ended. Tannehill capped a 75-yard drive to open the third with a 12-yard TD run, a drive kept alive by the Chargers’ first two penalties of the game both on third down.
Herbert capped an 80-yard drive with a 12-yard TD pass to Allen within the first minute of the fourth quarter.
The Titans, who lost their opener by a point in New Orleans, improved their NFL-best mark in games decided by three or fewer points since 2018. That’s when Vrabel was hired, and they now are 17-10. Safety Kevin Byard noted they’re usually in close games, and he was just happy with a win.
The Chargers now have lost their first two games by a combined five points. They are second in that span with a 15-16 mark now.
Titans tight end Chig Okonkwo went down early but returned to the game. He finished with four catches for 35 yards.
The Chargers finish a two-game road swing at Minnesota.