Weeks ago, the Tennessee Titans were on the outside looking to sneak into the NFL Playoffs. As the playoffs rolled around, they found themselves in the AFC’s six-seed, thanks to their high powered offense.
I’ve been a Tennessee Titans fan my entire life and I can say this season has been one of the more interesting seasons of my lifetime. It has been a season of ups and downs, featuring good and bad stretches of offensive and defensive play, and some questionable coaching decisions, yet they find themselves sitting in the playoffs.
How they got there
The Titans started the season against the hyped-up Cleveland Browns, destroying them 43-13. After that blowout, Tennessee’s offense struggled mightily, going 1-4 in the next five games, which included the Titans scoring seven or fewer points in three games.
The Titans’ offensive struggles could be pin-pointed to Marcus Mariota and the play of the offensive line, who struggled to get things going early on in the year. He continually held onto the ball too long, getting sacked 25 times during the first six games. Taylor Lewan was also suspended for the first four games, which hurt the Titans’ offensive line tremendously. While it sucked to see the former No. 2 pick for the Titans find his way to the bench, a change had to be made, which is why the Titans traded for Ryan Tannehill in the offseason.
Trading for Tannehill was one of the best moves the Titans have made in a while, as Tannehill led them to a 7-3 record and the No. 6 spot in the AFC.
The offense clicked in many ways for the Titans after Tannehill was placed at quarterback. Before Tannehill was the starter, the Titans scored 20-plus points twice. After he came in, the Titans scored 20-plus points in every single one of his starts, including two 42-point outbursts.
While it was an offensive effort that propelled the Titans into the playoffs after injuries hurt their high-powered defense, three particular Titans had a huge impact on their success as the season went on.
Obviously, the first Titan to have a tremendous impact was Tannehill. Despite starting in just 10 games, he threw for 2,742 yards on 201-of-286 passing, which included 22 touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns, and just seven interceptions.
Ryan Tannehill led the NFL with a 117.5 passer rating in 2019, ahead of Drew Brees, Lamar Jackson, Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson.
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) December 30, 2019
While he played in just 12 games, Tannehill led the league in passer rating. He was the PFF Highest Graded QB, over guys like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. He also was second in QBs by net yardage, behind the probable NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. Statistically, the Titans had the league’s best offense with Tannehill as their starter.
Next, the Titans were able to make it to the playoffs thanks to the dominating finish from Derrick Henry.
Derrick Henry, 2019 NFL RB Ranks:
1st in Rushing TDs (16)
1st in Rushing Yards (1,540)
1st in YPC* (5.08)
1st in 5+ Yard Carries (119)
1st in 10+ Yard Carries (42)
1st in 50+ Yard Carries (3)
*Among RB with at least 160 attempts*
— Alabama Bias (@AlabamaBias) December 30, 2019
Henry won the NFL rushing title on Sunday after a 211-yard performance. Henry edged out Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, and Ezekiel Elliott for the title.
As I mentioned before, the Titans had the best offense in the league whenever Tannehill was at quarterback. The success of Tannehill opened up the run game for Henry, as he had five 100-plus yard performances after the Broncos game. All six of Henry’s 100-plus yard games resulted in a victory for the Titans.
Lastly, the Titans found their No. 1 receiver in rookie A.J. Brown as the year went on. Brown finished the season with 52 catches for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns, which led all Titan receivers.
In 2019, AJ Brown ranked:
-3rd in yards per route run
-2nd in passer rating when targeted
-2nd in missed tackles forced per reception
-1st in yards after the catch per reception
-1st in yards after contact per reception
-1st in yards per target
among all 79 WRs with 50+ targets
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) December 30, 2019
Brown will likely win the Offensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL after making a late push, while early favorite Josh Jacobs missed the last few games. Brown finished with five games with 100-plus yards, including four in the last six games. He also had a touchdown or more in the last four games.
What this means for the Titans as they go into the Wild Card
The Titans have a daunting trip in front of them, as they will have to travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots. The Patriots have been a dynasty over the past decade, but with an aging Tom Brady and a struggling offense, the Patriots look as vulnerable as they have been in years. The Patriots will come into this game pissed off after losing to the Miami Dolphins in Week 17 and watching the Chiefs beat the Chargers, which knocked them out of the No. 2 spot to the No. 3 spot and into the Wild Card.
While the Patriots’ defense has looked great all season long, their defense struggled fairly bad against the Dolphins and Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. FitzMagic finished with 320 passing yards and a touchdown against the Patriots’ defense. DeVante Parker torched Stephon Gilmore, one of the best corners in the game, on Sunday.
I’m sure the Titans would love to see Tannehill and Brown torch Gilmore and the Patriots defense on Saturday night in the Wild Card game. The Titans will obviously look to get Henry the ball as well.
You never want to count out a Brady and Bill Belichick led team, but with the Titans’ high-powered offense, they can potentially pull off the upset against the defending champions.