First quarter: Off and running
Titans running back Chris Johnson hadn’t scored a touchdown since his last trip to Buffalo, Dec. 4 of last season. That’s a span of 10 games. He more than made up for it in the first quarter Sunday. Johnson rushed five times for 104 yards in the first 15 minutes, scoring twice.
The second of those was an 83-yard run off left tackle. It was Johnson’s fourth career rushing touchdown of 80 yards or longer, an NFL record.
Johnson’s two first-quarter touchdowns gave him six in his career against the Bills in just three games.
Smith to the house: Brad Smith’s 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was his first since Dec. 19, 2010, while with the New York Jets. It was the Bills’ first since C.J. Spiller had a 95-yard return Sept. 26, 2010 at New England.
Wearing out the scoreboard: The Bills and Titans combined to score 21 points in 30 seconds, the last of which was Smith’s return TD. That’s the fastest two teams have scored that many points since Dec. 14, 2008, when Oakland and New England combined for 21 points in 26 seconds, according to STATS, LLC.
Second quarter: Leg to stand on
Rian Lindell had attempted only three field goals coming into the game, the second fewest in the NFL, excluding injury replacements. He almost matched that output in the second 15 minutes.
Lindell hit field goals from 31 and 42 yards in the second quarter, at the scoreboard end of the stadium, which was into the wind Sunday.
The Bills, of course, would have preferred to have Lindell kicking extra points. Their two drives totaled 20 plays, but both stalled inside Tennessee territory. Brad Smith was tackled a yard short of a first down on the first one, then the Bills used their third and final timeout to stop the clock with two seconds left in the half.
Homecoming for Kern: It looked for a while like neither punter would get into the game, but Grand Island native Brett Kern got his first chance for Tennessee with 1:54 left in the quarter. Kern’s 31-yard punt was taken for a fair catch by Leodis McKelvin at the Bills’ 13-yard line.
Milestone: Stevie Johnson’s 29-yard reception with 1:06 left in the quarter was the 200th of his career.
Stats watch: The Bills and Titans combine for 474 yards of offense in the first half, 260-214 in favor of Tennessee.
Third quarter: Perfect timing
The good Fitz showed himself for the Bills in the third quarter. Ryan Fitzpatrick went 8 for 9 for 105 yards and two touchdowns to give the Bills the lead after 45 minutes. Fitzpatrick’s touchdown passess — the first covering 15 yards to Donald Jones and the second 27 yards to Stevie Johnson — were two of his better throws this season. They came on similar slant routes to the right side of the field.
“They were similar in that they were real timing plays,” Fitzpatrick said. “I had to trust my guys, make sure we were on the same page and the timing was precise.”
Big hitter: Titans safety Al Afalava was really throwing his weight around. Afalava drilled Fred Jackson after a 7-yard run with a hit that looked like it could have drawn a flag for helmet-to-helmet contact. Two plays later, he tried the same thing on C.J. Spiller, but the Bills running back bounced off the tackle and picked up 7 yards.
Rinehart goes down: Right guard Chad Rinehart suffered an ankle injury with 11:21 to play in the quarter blocking on a run play. Rinehart was carted off the field and did not return, forcing backup tackle Sam Young into the game at guard.
Fourth quarter: Window dressing
Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck led his 22nd career fourth-quarter comeback, and second straight for the Titans.
Hasselbeck completed 9 of 13 passes in the fourth quarter for 63 yards, including the big one: a 15-yard touchdown to Nate Washington with 1:05 left that allowed Tennessee to take the lead.
“Small window. I think the wind made it look like a better throw than it was because it kind of knifed right down in there, but those are the kinds of plays that Nate makes,” Hasselbeck said of the throw.
Penalty problems: Right tackle Erik Pears was called for holding on a second-and-9 play midway through the quarter that negated a 16-yard completion to Scott Chandler that would have set the Bills up at their 45. Pears had earlier taken a 15-yard personal foul that negated a gain of 8 yards, a combined swing of 49 yards on two plays.
Getting in the game: Bills punter Shawn Powell got just one attempt, and it’s one he’d rather forget. Kicking into the wind with 5:40 left in the game, Powell’s punt traveled just 22 yards before sailing out of bounds, nearly landing in the stands.