A dominating win in front of the nation as the Titans hold onto the top seed in the AFC. Still a lot of room for improvement, but hard to be upset with a win like that.
The offense: Point blank, the offense was poor. 194 yards of total offense for Tennessee, which on most weeks is not going to get it done. Overall, just a really disjointed performance for a number of reasons. A.J. Brown had two critical drops that would have extended drives, the run game never got started and a really poor interception by Tannehill early doomed the offense. All was not lost, however, because the defense picked up the slack big time. A side note, the kick returners need to STOP RUNNING THE BALL OUT OF THE ENDZONE. Take the 25 free yards. Stop trying to be a hero, it never works out.
The doubters: At some point, you have to admit that this Titans team is good. No team has been ravaged more by injury, and yet they stand tall at the top of the AFC. There’s a very real chance that they end up with the AFC’s #1 seed, even without Derrick Henry, and getting Henry healthy after a first round bye in the playoffs would be extremely scary for any opposing team. Right now the strength of this team is the defense (wild, huh?). More reps for A.J., Julio, and Tannehill all together are certainly needed, and can make this a lethal team come January.
Left Tackle: This is not a good situation right now, altogether. Taylor Lewan was apparently only available for emergency situations at LT despite going through warmups and being active. Bobby Hart, who was signed off the street a few weeks ago, started and played left tackle the entire game. The problem with starting Bobby Hart is that he’s terrible. He got manhandled all game and took a couple stupid penalties. If the Titans have to rely on him going forward, they are going to be in real trouble, specifically in the passing game.
That leads me to the third and final piece of this left tackle issue. Tennessee drafted two tackles with high draft picks over the past two years. One is infamously no longer on the team and the other seems to be the absolute last resort to play. He played left tackle in college, I’m not sure why guys that are being signed off the street are better options to play than him, but it is certainly discouraging that he’s not out there on a consistent basis when other guys are unavailable.
Jeffery Simmons/Denico Autry: When Jon Robinson signed Denico Autry, the move was heralded as an underrated signing. Underrated no more, as it’s been the move of the offseason. The former Colt and Big Jeff are absolutely crushing opposing linemen and it’s been a blast to watch. The two combined for 4.5 sacks against Matthew Stafford and the Rams on Sunday night.
These two, Harold Landry, and Bud Dupree all are making the lives of everyone easier, generating tons of pressure without blitzing. Dupree should only get better as the season goes on, which means there’s room for even more improvement here. From a team that only had 19 sacks a year ago, the turnaround has been nothing short of incredible.
Kevin Byard: The front four generating pressure is allowing the secondary to do things they couldn’t a year ago. Like Kevin Byard baiting Stafford a throw that resulted in a pick 6. Byard now is second in the NFL in INTs with 4, three behind Trevon Diggs. Byard has been the most consistent member of the secondary and deserves some legitimate DPOY consideration. A return to form was just what the doctor ordered.
Shane Bowen/Mike Vrabel: All offseason, the Titans’ actions said that the players were the reason for a poor defensive team in 2020. Well, they were right. The new players are making a big impact for the Titans and as the defense continues to get healthier, we can only assume they will improve.
Shane Bowen limited Pat Mahomes to the fewest points in his career and then on Sunday, he stymied Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford to the tune of just 16 points. Mike Vrabel deserves a lot of credit too, as this is his defense.
Vrabel also deserves credit for keeping his team in every game. The coaching staff was without Derrick Henry, as they will be for a while, but put together a plan that worked against Los Angeles. The remaining schedule is the easiest in the league and while they may not run the table, it’s tough to see them fading down the stretch with the way they are playing right now. Next up are the New Orleans Saints, who will be pissed after losing to the Falcons.