Throughout the week leading up to today’s contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars, there were a multitude of messages that came from the mouths of the Tennessee Titans’ coaching staff.
The luxury of a late season bye week and how it gave many guys a chance to get healthier, re-focusing the team after a much needed break after a grueling 13 consecutive games, and one strictly from head coach Mike Vrabel that expressed his displeasure during the aftermath of a roster situation surrounding one specific player.
If you watched a certain press conference this week, you should immediately know what I’m alluding to.
However, one message to the team — specifically a unit — that was shared by Vrabel this past week was one that held a lot of significance considering the circumstance.
Before the Titans’ defense walked into Nissan Stadium and dominated a spiraling Jaguars team, they hadn’t forced a turnover since their close win against the New Orleans Saints on November 14th. That’s nearly one month without an interception or a fumble recovery, a figure that couldn’t have continued to exist while the Titans’ offense searched for ways to consistently play good offensive football.
When you’re a football team that’s lacking any sort of cohesion offensively, the next best thing is to rely on your defense to create turnovers, eventually giving the offense good field position and a better opportunity to score points. We know the drill after years of football principles being drilled into our heads right?
But when you don’t create turnovers and give up points at the same, while also forcing your offense to pull solutions out of a magic hat, then you’re bound to struggle when it comes to the strategic, head throbbing battle on the scoreboard.
That’s a problem Vrabel and the rest of his staff have had to deal with over the team’s last two games, and it was especially evident during their frustrating loss to the surging New England Patriots. To combat it, Vrabel gathered his players and yelled a message to the heavens throughout the week leading up to gameday.
It wasn’t one that included any fancy technical verbiage or one that required deep, critical thinking on the surface. Instead, it was one that was easy to understand and one that even your average teenager could digest and put to mind.
The message was simply to create more turnovers and put this struggling offense in better positions to find success.
Now of course, a message as simple as this probably doesn’t move your own personal needle much if you’re looking for some complicated solution to help aid your desire for football knowledge. But if you’re someone that understands the broad sense of this message and how it’s constant preaching and practice can have an impact on a game, then you understand the importance of the message in itself.
Today’s defensive excellence by the Titans’ defense only pushes that notion even further.
Trevor Lawrence was under duress all game long today, fighting for clean throwing pockets and enough time just to settle on a target down the field. When he did have time though, he didn’t use it wisely and the Titans made him pay for doing so.
Shane Bowen’s defense forced four turnovers today, all of which came as a result of the Titans’ secondary plucking Lawrence’s errant throws out of the air.
The team’s two starting linebackers — Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans — finished with one interception apiece. The same can be said for the defense’s two starting corners, with Kristian Fulton and Buster Skrine walking away with an interception as well.
All of these turnover inducing plays weren’t mind boggling, acrobatic interceptions that you would’ve seen on your local ESPN channel while watching Sportscenter’s top ten plays of the day. But they were turnovers nonetheless, something that fulfilled Vrabel’s message that rang in the ears of his players for three straight mid December practices coming off of the unusually placed bye week.
If that message can continue to bear fruit until the Titans’ top skill players return from injury, then this team is going to be in really good shape. While it hasn’t been the explosive unit it was before Derrick Henry’s major foot injury, the Titans’ offense has found ways to get by. That includes their running game, which has finally found its groove despite not having their star bellcow back to lead the way.
Combine that with the refreshed, swarming defensive unit, and this team might find itself cooking with oil before the stretch run concludes in January.