NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans (8-2) refuse to relinquish their seat atop the AFC. Buoyed by an impressive pass rush and one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks in Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee overcome opponents in six straight games.
That’s right, I said one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks.
Tannehill’s prowess since coming to the Titans is no mystery to anyone who has actually watched him. It was the case when he bailed Tennessee out of its 2019 tailspin en route to an AFC Championship appearance. Tannehill again was questioned when he accounted for 40 total touchdowns and one of the best offenses in franchise history in 2020.
One would think leading the Titans to eight wins in 10 weeks and first place in their conference would assuage such a lazy narrative.
Titans go as Tannehill does.
Tannehill is again the subject of odd performance criticisms despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Skepticism of Tennessee’s ability to sustain things without game-changing plays from Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown or Julio Jones is warranted. What has become abundantly clear clear is that the player running point on the whole thing has been succeeding despite his circumstances. Tannehill knows that’s his duty to his team.
“Yeah, obviously we’ve got to clean some stuff up but I’m never going to apologize for a win,” said the Titans quarterback. “I’m proud of our guys. We battled through. We were able to make some plays when it counted and come away with a win.”
Few players have stepped up as much as Tannehill.
Tennessee’s offensive line has struggled to stay right all season long. Per Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, they have graded out as the third-worst pass blocking unit in the NFL. An inability to keep the line healthy and playing together consistently has made it a week-to-week proposition. The Titans are tied for the fourth-most sacks allowed (29).
Despite the constant duress, Tannehill has been hugely efficient. He ranks 10th among qualified quarterbacks in expected points added per play (.197), just behind Aaron Rodgers (8th) and Joe Burrow (9th). Only six players at the position have gotten rid of the football on average faster than Tennessee’s starter this season (2.65). Tannehill has averaged 7.57 yards per attempt this season, with his lowest average coming in Week 9 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Tannehill rebounded in the victory over New Orleans, averaging 7.89.
Roster attrition has ravaged what surrounds the Titans signal caller. He’s seasoned when it comes to overcoming adversity at this point. While the team awaits better luck on the injury report, they can rely on a player who, prior to the last three seasons, was largely written off as unreliable.
“We are going to have to be firm in the middle of the pocket,” coach Mike Vrabel said on Monday. “We are going to have to block inside out, know that and you can show them examples of the quarterback stepping up and throwing passes in whatever scheme we have completed, that is what you continue to show them. Just like the other day, (Tannehill) stepped up and threw a nice on there to Marcus (Johnson) on the through route. It is hard to function if protection breaks down or a guy is in the middle of the pocket or there are guys on him it doesn’t matter who you are.
Looking down on the rest of the AFC, Tennessee goes as Tannehill does.
Featured Image: USA TODAY Sports.