NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans (2-1) kept hold of the AFC South, dealing a near-fatal blow to the Indianapolis Colts (0-3) on Sunday. The 25-16 win was coach Mike Vrabel’s first over Indy in front of a home crowd.
Tennessee’s boogeyman could not best them this day.
What has kept the Titans alive, lately, is the strength of their pass rush. That sentence beggars belief for fans who saw this same franchise fail to accumulate even 20 sacks a season ago. Even more surprising: the names who are actually responsible for brining down the quarterback.
No one could have told you with a straight face that Tennessee’s most productive threat off the edge through three weeks would be a journeyman from Toledo.
The Titans have a real pass rush
This is not a drill, people.
After being within inches several times of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray in Week 1 to no avail, the Titans have found ways to effectively scheme pressure. Sacking Russell Wilson three times and hitting him twice as often allowed Tennessee to pull off the improbable against the Seattle Seahawks. Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, on two bad ankles, was the latest victim for a unit that has found needed juice.
Without the team’s prized offseason acquisition Bud Dupree, no less.
“It’s called pass rush,” Vrabel chirped in his postgame press conference. “Go back — pass rush experts. You guys (media) should be able to identify that pretty well. Good to have guys winning.”
The head coach’s snark is understandable, but so was last year’s criticisms.
The Titans got after Indianapolis up front with consistency. Free agent acquisition Ola Adeniyi has been the statistical beneficiary, coming up with 2.5 sacks in three games. He would have had a third against the Colts that was negated by an illegal contact penalty on nickel defensive back Chris Jackson.
The front office brought the four-year vet in to play primarily on special teams. Over the last few months, however, Adeniyi has made the most of his opportunities on the practice field. His coaches and teammates have taken notice.
“I feel like we’re all just attacking right now and it is awesome to see,” fellow edge rusher Harold Landry said. “Like you said, everybody’s making plays. Like I said during camp, all of us have just been working every single day and I felt like we built that chemistry. Now, we’re kind of just playing off of one another and going out there and eating as a group.”
Dupree, who was active against Indianapolis but did not play a snap, was dressed out in case of emergency, according to Vrabel.
While Tennessee fans await him, there can be comfort in the fact that this front seven is creating in ways the offseason rebuild imagined it could. Rookie Rashad Weaver broke his right fibula against the Colts, per Paul Kuharsky, making the depth perilously thin. If the collective can retain their health, this unit can give the Titans production they lacked in 2020.
“Coach Vrabel even said it today,” mused Adeniyi. “‘ I don’t care where you came from, as long as you produce and you do what you have to do.’ That’s what God sent me here to do.”
Tennessee needs every sack, pressure and QB hit it can get, through divine intervention or otherwise.