NASHVILLE, Tenn. ⏤ The Tennessee Titans‘ win against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday was a messy one, as head coach Mike Vrabel astutely pointed out following the game.

“It’s almost impossible to be able to win that way,” Vrabel said.

The Titans did win, though, and that’s really all that matters when you consider how impactful the win could be to the rest of the 2021 season and what the team overcame on Sunday.

“A BIG OPPORTUNITY”


The Colts’ loss to the Titans on Sunday was their third straight to open the season, and it puts them in a hole that has proven to be extremely hard to dig out of; only six teams in the history of the NFL have rebounded from an 0-3 start to reach the postseason.

That’s good news for the Titans (2-1), who now have a firm grasp on the AFC South lead just three weeks into the season and entering the easiest two-game stretch on their schedule (Jets and Jaguars).

“It was a big opportunity for us today,” QB Ryan Tannehill said.

“NEXT MAN UP”

Taking advantage of that opportunity required the Titans to dig deeper than many expected they’d have to against the Colts and their crippled quarterback, Carson Wentz.

Some of the wounds that tested the Titans’ resolve on Sunday were self-inflicted, such as the offense’s three turnovers.

However, the Titans also endured several blows over which they had no control, most notably in the injury department.

Many key players⏤including WR A.J. Brown, CB Kristian Fulton and OLB Rashad Weaver⏤left Sunday’s game early with injuries.

Additionally, OLB Bud Dupree was active, but he didn’t play a single snap because of an issue with his knee, and WR Julio Jones sat out a majority of the fourth quarter as the Titans tried to manage his workload.

“ALL ABOUT HOW YOU PERSEVERE”

In the end, though, the Titans overcame their injury problems, as a handful of backups impressively stepped in and produced at a high level.

Foremost among them was OLB Ola Adeniyi, who filled in for Weaver and Dupree.

He recorded 1.5 sacks and would’ve had another had it not been negated by a holding penalty in the secondary.

“We had Bud down today, so guys had to step up,” Adeniyi said. “It’s next-man-up.”

The offense also overcame its turnover bug, mounting a key touchdown drive when it most needed to early in the fourth quarter.

Up by one point and on the heels of two straight drives that ended with turnovers, QB Ryan Tannehill took charge and marched the Titans down the field for a crucial five-play, 59-yard drive that ended with a touchdown and two-point conversion, putting the Titans up by two possessions in the fourth quarter.

“That was a great drive,” said WR Chester Rogers, who caught a TD from Tannehill earlier in the game.

“We needed to give them a gut blow and help put them away, put them out of their misery.”

It would be easy after such a messy, “grind-it-out” win to berate the Titans and compose a list of things they need to be better at moving forward, but doing so would be lazy. It would also breach curmudgeon territory.

Instead, the Titans deserve praise and a tip of the hat for finding a way to get the job done in a key divisional matchup.

Division games do, after all, tend to be close no matter how talented the two teams are, and winning them is, obviously, a lot better than losing them.

Thanks to their ability to respond well to difficult situations, something for which Vrabel deserves a lot of credit, the Titans did just that against the Colts.

“You never want to shoot yourself in the foot, but it’s football,” RB Derrick Henry said. “You’ve got to play the next play.

“Things like that are going to happen. It’s all about how you persevere through that adversity.”

Cover image: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean