The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — 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.
Stidham picked up where he left off in his previous trip to Nissan Stadium. Stidham had five TD passes here helping Auburn rout Purdue in the Music City Bowl last December, and this time the rookie was 14 of 19 for 193 yards helping the Patriots (2-0) come back from a 17-8 halftime deficit.
Two days of practices against the Titans was enough for Patriots coach Bill Belichick to let Tom Brady watch a second straight exhibition with New England’s options at wide receiver thin because of injuries.
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 2 against his 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 6 of 9 for 63 yards passing.
Brian Hoyer’s first offensive series ended quickly. Logan Ryan, the former Patriots cornerback, stepped in front of receiver Braxton Berrios for an interception. Hoyer was 6 of 8 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 7 of 11 for 84 yards with a TD pass and a sack.
Browns 21, Colts 18
INDIANAPOLIS — Garrett Gilbert threw two touchdown passes in the first half and David Blough added another TD pass in the second half Saturday, leading the Cleveland Browns past Indianapolis 21-18.
Cleveland (2-0) has won nine of its past 10 preseason games — this one with its top two quarterbacks sitting out and Kareem Hunt returned 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 4-yard TD pass to Derrick Willies , Kelly tried to rally the Colts.
He took advantage of one roughing the passer call to get the Colts into scoring position then threw a 24-yard TD strike to Ross Travis , who drew a lowering the helmet penalty on the play. Kelly’s 1-yard conversion pass to Hale Hentges made it 21-18. And Kelly led the Colts to the Browns 9-yard line in the final minute before Will Harvey swatted away Kelly’s final throw on fourth-and-1.
Steelers 17, Chiefs 7
PITTSBURGH — 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 the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 17-7 on Saturday night.
Rudolph finished 10 of 15 for 77 yards while Dobbs completed 6 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.
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 2 of 5 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.
Mahomes’ best play during his cameo may have been his decision to slide during an 8-yard scramble, something he didn’t do a week ago when he lowered his shoulder against Cincinnati rather than step out of bounds.
Chad Henne found Mecole Hardman for a 17-yard touchdown late in the first half for Kansas City (1-1), which managed a lone touchdown a week after putting up 38 against the Bengals. Hardman, a second-round pick, has two touchdowns in two weeks and his rapid emergence could give Reid another option to play with in what could be the NFL’s most potent offense.
Pittsburgh chose to give the 37-year-old Roethlisberger the night off. Rudolph, a third-round pick a year ago who is hoping to supplant Dobbs as the top backup, was given the start instead. Playing with a group that included Pro Bowl running back James Conner and star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, Rudolph struggled early to gain some momentum.
It wasn’t until Rudolph found himself playing with the reserves that he started to get going. He directed a 14-play, 89-yard drive in the second quarter, a series that ended with a 14-yard sprint to the end zone by Jaylen Samuels.
Dobbs started off brilliantly, hitting Washington for a 40-yard gain. He couldn’t sustain the momentum, thanks in part to an interception in the end in which he overthrew Diontae Johnson. The ball sailed into the arms of Kansas City’s Charvarius Ward to cut short a scoring chance late in the first half.
Texans 30, Lions 23
HOUSTON — Deshaun Watson took advantage of one series in his preseason debut looking sharp in directing a 75-yard drive capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins to help the Houston Texans to a 30-23 win over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night.
Watson, who sat out in a loss to Green Bay last week, was 5 of 7 for 60 yards and scrambled once for 7 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 which 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 Houston’s top receivers to play. Will Fuller, who is healthy after tearing a knee ligament last season, sat out and the Texans were without Keke Coutee, who injured his ankle last week.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford didn’t play for the second straight week, with the Lions 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 9 of 18 for 85 yards with an interception.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson, the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft, had one reception for 22 yards, but also received a penalty for a crackback block. Running back Kerryon Johnson started and had three carries for 16 yards in a little more than a quarter of work.
Several of Houston’s defensive starters also played briefly, including linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who sacked Johnson and caused a fumble on Detroit’s first series. Defensive end J.J. Watt did not play for the second straight game despite practicing all week after recovering from tightness in his groin.
Detroit cornerback Darius Slay broke up two passes in the first quarter and Jalen Reeves-Maybin had five tackles, including one for a loss, and defended a pass.
Veteran backup Joe Webb came in after the series by Watson and was 14 of 25 for 186 yards with a touchdown and an interception after throwing for 286 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions last week.
The Texans were up 10-3 in the second quarter when Steven Mitchell fumbled after a 4-yard reception and Will Harris scooped it up and returned it 19 yards to tie it.
Webb connected with Vyncint Smith on a 31-yard touchdown pass just before halftime to put Houston on top 17-10.
Fales took over at quarterback for the Lions on the second series of the third quarter and threw a 5-yard touchdown to Zach Zenner, but the 2-point conversion failed to leave Detroit down 20-16.
Buddy Howell’s 1-yard touchdown run extended Houston’s lead to 27-16 with about 8¢ minutes left and the Lions got within 27-23 on a TD run by Mark Thompson a couple of minutes later.
Fales was 12 of 19 for 226 yards and a touchdown.
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Houston tight end Jordan Thomas caught what appeared to be a touchdown pass from Webb in the second quarter and ran off the field and halfway up the tunnel with teammates chasing him. Thomas had to hustle back after his celebration jog when an offensive holding penalty nullified his score and the Texans had to run another play.
Lions: Host the Bills on Friday.
Texans: Visit Cowboys next Saturday.