INGLEWOOD — The Tennessee Titans (7-2) went into the Los Angeles Rams’ (7-2) palace at SoFi Stadium and smacked them around for four quarters. Tennessee arrived in opposing stadium and absolutely mugged the home team for a nationally-televised audience to see.
The Titans are the real deal.
If you’re new to Nashville’s NFL experience, welcome to the show. Those of you who have been around long enough to know how to actually pronounce Kevin Byard’s last name properly, this one’s for you. Tennessee sits atop their conference for the second consecutive week after handing Los Angeles a 28-16 “L.”
This time, they did it without the team’s best player.
Titans maul Matt Stafford and the Rams
Matt Stafford: Meet Big Jeff.
Tennessee won the toss and deferred, meaning they would have to find a way to bring Stafford and the Rams to heel. Pressure from Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry, Bud Dupree and Harold Landry did just that. The Titans held an offense that came into Week 9 scoring 30.6 points per game without a touchdown until garbage time in the fourth quarter.
Simmons’ star shone brightest, however.
“(Simmons has) been a fantastic person, leader, a contributor for us since the day that we drafted him,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “He’s really playing with a lot of confidence. I think that his technique is what’s improved. He was always just a big, powerful play hard, be-disruptive player. I think we’re all starting to see some of the technique that those guys up front or are coaching him and he’s feeling some confidence in it. It’s showing that it works.”
Tennessee’s star defensive lineman finished with a career-high 10 pressures & three sacks on Sunday night in Los Angeles, per NextGen Stats. Autry chipped in five pressures & 1.5 sacks. No defenders have generated more pressures than Simmons (27) or Autry (20) since Week 6.
Titans offense wins ugly and that’s OK
The Titans first game without Derrick Henry in the line-up since drafting him in 2016 had some expected turbulence.
The first drive on offense went only four plays and 19 yards before Rams corner Jalen Ramsey swooped in for an interception that got his offense another crack at points.
Ryan Tannehill fully understood that the offense without Henry would need to find its sea legs. Tennessee’s back-to-back interceptions on defense helped flatten the learning curve and Tannehill capitalized with two consecutive touchdown drives to make the lead 21-3 at the half.
“Yeah, you don’t play for stats,” Tannehill said. “You play for wins. Sometimes they correlate together, but in other situations, in other games, it’s just a matter of finding a way to win. And today as a team, we did that. The defense, like we just mentioned, some of the plays they made were huge. They played tough the whole day and offensively, we kind of answered the bell there at the end when we needed to make a play.”
Plays were made in all three phases, though, and the Titans walked away the victors.
The “this team is resilient” column has been written ad nauseam during the Vrabel Era, but that theme always manifests itself in different ways each week. 6-0 against 2020 playoff teams tells you all you need to know about Tennessee’s legitimacy as a contender.
The difference is that the Titans are no longer an underdog story. Everyone in the NFL sees them coming, and they seem to like it that way.
Featured Image: USA TODAY Sports.