NASHVILLE – Turns out things weren’t as bad as Mike Vrabel initially feared.
“What a worry [is it] if you don’t have your kicker 10 minutes before the game?” said the Tennessee Titans coach. “A damn ton.”
The Titans eventually had kicker Randy Bullock for their matchup with the Denver Broncos. He was just limited.
After injuring himself while warming up before the game, Bullock turned most kickoff duties to Ryan Stonehouse but handled all placekicks as usual. He made both PATs he attempted and then capped his afternoon with a 35-yard field goal to play 2:59 that provided the final points in Tennessee’s 17-10 win.
Had Bullock not answered the bell, Stonehouse would have taken on the role of placekicker as well, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill would have come in for Stonehouse as keeper. In other words, two-thirds of the snap-hold-kick sequence would have been backups.
“Yeah, I got this little birdie in my ear before the game, like, ‘Hey, you could hold,'” Tannehill said. “Not the kind of info you want to get in pregame, but Randy was able to pull through and get a few kicks for us there – extra points and then that crucial field goal at the end.
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“In any case, he showed a certain toughness for us. He fought his way through and made it big.”
After all, coaches and players had plenty of time to deal with the topic. Denver started to start the contest and the Titans didn’t need anyone to kick until Nick Westbrook-Ikhine scored in the first half on a 9-yard touchdown reception with 12 seconds left. Bullock made the PAT and handled the subsequent kickoff that went just 47 yards to the Broncos’ 18.
Stonehouse then started early in the second half and after each of the Titans’ last two points. The first two resulted in touchbacks.
“It’s part of my job to just do what I can to help the team,” Stonehouse said. “Of course, what happened is just part of the job.
“I trained for (kickoffs) in high school, so you never really lose that technique. It’s just a different way of kicking. I was happy that I could put two for touchobacks.”
Bullock has been the Titans’ field kicker since Week 2 of 2021. In nine games this season, he has made 11 of 13 field goal attempts and all 19 PATs he has attempted. With 52 points, he is second on the team in scoring ahead of running back Derrick Henry (54 points).
His health will be a major storyline over the next few days. The Titans’ next match is Thursday in Green Bay, which means there will be less time than usual to rest and recover.
Unlike previous seasons, the Titans don’t have a kicker on their practice team this season. So if they have to look for an alternative, they have to look outside the building.