Jarrett Stidham threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Damoun Patterson with 4:12 left, rallying the New England Patriots to a 22-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night in Nashville.
Stidham picked up where he left off in his previous trip to Nissan Stadium. Stidham had five TD passes there in helping Auburn rout Purdue in the Music City Bowl in December, and this time the rookie was 14 for 19 for 193 yards and helped the Patriots (2-0) come back from a 17-8 halftime deficit.
Two days of practices against the Titans were enough for Patriots coach Bill Belichick to let quarterback Tom Brady watch a second straight exhibition with New England’s options at wide receiver thin because of injuries. The Patriots drafted Stidham in the fourth round in April.
“Stidham has a good arm,” Belichick said. “I think he throws the ball accurately. I think he has shown that all the way through from Baylor to Auburn to his pro day and his spring workouts, so I do really think that has been the issue.”
Marcus Mariota started for the Titans (1-1) and shook off a pair of three-and-outs before his best drive this preseason. He capped a 10-play, 87-yard drive with an 11-yard TD pass to his favorite target, three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker, who broke his right ankle in the 2018 season opener.
With kicker Ryan Succop on the physically unable to perform list, coach Mike Vrabel let Mariota go for two against Vrabel’s old team. Mariota looked to throw, then ran to the end zone before going into the air and flipping over Patriots defensive back Duron Harmon for an 8-0 lead. Mariota was six for nine for 63 yards passing.
Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer’s first offensive series ended quickly. Logan Ryan, a former New England cornerback, stepped in front of wide receiver Braxton Berrios for an interception. Hoyer was six for eight for 55 yards. Stidham took over in the second quarter.
Brandon Bolden and Nick Brossette each ran for a TD for the Patriots.
Ryan Tannehill, added in a trade from Miami in March to upgrade the Titans’ backup quarterback, was seven for 11 for 84 yards with a TD pass and a sack. Logan Woodside took over just before halftime and finished the game.
TEXANS 30, LIONS 23
Deshaun Watson took advantage of one series in his preseason debut, looking sharp in directing a 75-yard drive capped by a four-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins to help Houston defeat visiting Detroit.
Watson, who sat out in a loss to Green Bay last week, was five for seven for 60 yards and scrambled once for seven yards. After being sacked an NFL-high 62 times last season, the third-year player had plenty of time to throw while facing a Lions defense that opened the game with the bulk of its starters.
Hopkins, also making his preseason debut, had two receptions for 17 yards and shook off Detroit’s Quandre Diggs to get open and make the TD catch that put Houston up 7-0.
Hopkins, who had a career-high 1,572 yards receiving last season, was the only one of the Texans’ top receivers to play. Will Fuller, who is healthy after tearing a knee ligament last season, sat out, and Houston (1-1) was without Keke Coutee, who injured his ankle last week.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford didn’t play for the second straight week, with the Lions (0-2) instead starting Josh Johnson. Johnson was signed a week ago after backup Tom Savage suffered a head injury in the team’s preseason opener against the Patriots. Johnson was nine of 18 for 85 yards with an interception.
The Lions had a chance to tie it on the last play of the game, but a pass by David Fales was knocked down in the end zone.
STEELERS 17, CHIEFS 7
Mason Rudolph guided a long first-half touchdown drive to perhaps nudge ahead of Josh Dobbs in the race to be the backup behind Ben Roethlisberger, and host Pittsburgh beat Kansas City.
Rudolph finished 10 for 15 for 77 yards and Dobbs completed six of 11 for 95 yards with a red-zone interception on a night the Steelers (2-0) opted to keep several key starters on the sideline, from quarterback Roethlisberger to Pro Bowl offensive linemen David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey to rookie linebacker Devin Bush.
Kansas City coach Andy Reid suggested Patrick Mahomes would play most of the first half.
Not quite. The reigning NFL MVP — who directed a touchdown in his lone drive in Kansas City’s preseason opener last week — did little during two series of work following a thunderstorm that forced the opening kickoff to be pushed back nearly an hour.
Mahomes completed just two of five passes for 11 yards, a far cry from his previous visit to Heinz Field, when he threw for six touchdowns in a Week 2 win last September that served as a harbinger of the season to come. The Chiefs fell to 1-1 this preseason.
BROWNS 21, COLTS 18
Garrett Gilbert threw two touchdown passes in the first half and David Blough added another TD pass in the second half, leading visiting Cleveland past Indianapolis.
The Browns (2-0) have won nine of their past 10 preseason games — this one with their top two quarterbacks sitting out and Kareem Hunt returning to the field for the first time in nearly nine months. It’s the first time the Browns have beaten the Colts in the preseason since 1979, when the franchise was still located in Baltimore.
Quarterback Chad Kelly did everything he could to keep the Colts’ winning streak intact.
After Blough gave Cleveland a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter with a four-yard TD pass to Derrick Willies , Kelly tried to rally the Colts (0-2).
He took advantage of one roughing the passer call to get Indianapolis into scoring position and then threw a 24-yard TD strike to Ross Travis , who drew a lowering the helmet penalty on the play. Kelly’s one-yard conversion pass to Hale Hentges made it 21-18. And Kelly led the Colts to the Browns’ nine-yard line in the final minute before Will Harvey swatted away Kelly’s final throw on fourth-and-one.
Gilbert played the entire first half and was 13 for 19 for 151 yards.