NASHVILLE, Tenn. ⏤ When the Tennessee Titans lost RB Derrick Henry to a foot injury ahead of Week Nine, the team emphatically and repeatedly declared that Henry’s absence wouldn’t lead to any sort of significant scheme change.

“We will run our offense,” head coach Mike Vrabel said on Nov. 1. “I don’t think anybody wants to sit there and drop back and throw it 45 times a game.”

Tennessee has indeed succeeded in maintaining its offensive identity without Henry. The team still runs similar formations and schematic concepts.

Unfortunately for the Titans, though, the unit has not succeeded in meeting a far-more-important goal: consistently scoring points.

MISSING THE MARK

Since losing Henry, the Titans’ offense has been mostly underwhelming, as a whole. Against the previously 1-8 Texans on Sunday, it was embarrassingly bad⏤failing to score a single point until the final three minutes of the third quarter.

“As an entire offense, we have to do better,” tackle Taylor Lewan said. “We did not play well. It was just bad.”

For the Titans to achieve their goal of nabbing the AFC’s No. 1 seed and earning a first-round bye⏤which, in turn, would give Henry another week to heal before the postseason⏤the offense is going to have to stop making so many mistakes and find some kind of rhythm.

Mistakes killed the Titans against the Texans. The team frequently managed to move the ball into scoring position before torpedoing themselves with a combo platter of dropped passes, penalties, turnovers and missed assignments.

“It’s just hard to overcome the turnovers, and there were a few penalties on defense that I felt like extended drives and cost us,” Vrabel said.

“Just felt like we were our own worst enemy.”

TANNEHILL’S TURNOVERS

At the center of those mistakes was QB Ryan Tannehill, who threw a career-worst four interceptions against the Texans defense, the league’s worst in 2021 both in points and yards allowed.

While Tannehill didn’t get a whole lot of help and, yet again, dealt with a litany of injuries, he played very poorly in his own right.

Most of the blame for those interceptions falls squarely on Tannehill’s shoulders, especially the first one, which he threw straight to Texans LB Kamu Grugier-Hill.

“It all falls squarely on me,” Tannehill said. “I have to be better.”

Turnovers are becoming a problem for Tannehill, who has now thrown at least one ill-advised interception in each of the Titans’ last four games⏤though the one he threw against New Orleans in Week Ten was wiped out by an unrelated penalty.

During his first two years with the Titans, Tannehill consistently elevated his teammates. That hasn’t been happening lately, and the fate of the post-Henry Tennessee offense rests heavily on his ability to rebound in that regard.

NO RHYTHM

Beyond the mistakes the Titans’ offense made against Houston and Tannehill’s poor performance, the unit looked clunky, disheveled, and out of sync.

For the third week in a row, Tennessee had very little offensive rhythm. They couldn’t sustain drives or muster any semblance of consistency.

“I feel like we were in rhythm, at times, but we shot ourselves in the foot

The Titans’ offensive struggles against the Rams in Week Nine and the Saints in Week 10 could have fairly been chalked up, and often were, to the fact that those teams boast two of the NFL’s strongest defenses.

But after the offense’s clunker against the bottomfeeder Texans, it’s fair to wonder whether this offense is capable of being serviceable as long as Henry is sidelined.

It certainly hasn’t been through three games

With a difficult game against the Patriots at Gilette Stadium looming, the Titans’ offense has a lot that needs fixing, and it needs to happen quickly.

“We have to be able to make the corrections, turn the page, and get ready to go again. We’re going to a team that’s playing really good ball, and it will be a good test,” Tannehill said.

“I’m excited to get back to work. I have a lot of belief in this team and this offense.”

Cover image: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean