Titans defense shuts down Brady-less Buccaneers 34-3
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Briean Boddy-Calhoun returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown and the Tennessee Titans beat the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who played without Tom Brady and several starters, 34-3 in a preseason game Saturday night.
Tampa Bay’s Tanner Hudson had a 26-yard catch on a pass from Kyle Trask, but fumbled when he was hit by Bradley McDougald. Boddy-Calhoun scooped up the loose ball and went the distance to put the Titans up 20-3 in the third quarter.
After Clayton Geathers picked off a pass by Trask, Matt Barkley connected with Mason Kinsey on a 20-yard touchdown to make it 34-3 early in the fourth.
“They’re a playoff team,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said of the Titans. “They’re a good football team.”
Tampa Bay’s lineup was mostly devoid of regulars, while the Titans had a number that started. Brady and his Tennessee counterpart Ryan Tannehill didn’t play. Brady played one series in last week’s opener, while Tannehill has sat out both Titans games.
The lack of starters was expected after the teams held joint practices Wednesday and Thursday that included Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown and Titans second-year defensive back Chris Jackson getting into one of several scuffles.
Caleb Farley and Elijah Molden, two key components of the rebuilt Tennessee secondary taken in this year’s draft, made their debuts.
Molden, taken in the third round, started and was credited with a fourth-down stop on Giovani Bernard that set up Tennessee late in the first quarter for the game’s first score. He had eight tackles.
“It’s really cool to see him go out there and do some nice things and blitz and cover,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “One of his plays led to a big interception. So executing things that we’ve been coaching him to do in that situation on third down.”
Farley, a first-round selection, entered during the first. He was activated from the non-football injury list at the start of August after rehabbing a pair of back surgeries.
“It’s the next step, the return to play,” Vrabel said. “He came through pretty good through the practices health-wise which allowed him to be available for the game. We tried to get him close to 16 snaps. We’ll take a look at it. He hasn’t played football in a quite a bit of time. It’s going to be a process. It was a good step just to get him out there to show him what the game feels like.”
Barkley led the Titans on three first-half scoring drives as Tennessee took a 13-3 halftime advantage. He connected on a fourth-down five-yard TD with Mekhi Sargent with 19 second left in the first. Barkley finished 12 of 16 for 115 yards.
Logan Woodside, who split time with Barkley, was 7 of 8 for 64 yards, including a 23-yard TD to Dez Fitzpatrick late in the third to make it 27-3.
Trask, a rookie from Florida, played the second half for the Bucs and was 13 of 26 for 131 yards and two interceptions.
Sam Ficken had field goals of 48 and 58 yards during the second quarter for Tennessee. Tampa Bay’s Ryan Succop converted from 49 yards. … Sargent picked up 78 yards on 16 carries.
Floyd Reese, the general manager who assembled the roster for the Titans’ lone Super Bowl appearance, died Saturday. He was 73.
Reese spent 21 years with the Oilers-Titans as coach and executive, and he remains the winningest general manager in franchise history.
Titans: Seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones didn’t play and hasn’t practiced since Aug. 2. … OL Paul Adams left with a wrist injury.
Buccaneers: Arians said there were no injuries to report.
Titans: close out the preseason with a home game next Saturday night against Chicago.
Buccaneers: wrap up the preseason at Houston next Saturday night.
Arians said the regulars will get playing time in preparation for the regular-season opener with Dallas on Sept. 9.
“We’ve got so long before we play them,” Arians said. “We can’t go against Dallas and all of sudden play game speed. We’ve got to have some game speed under our belt before we show up against the Cowboys.”
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