The team that branded themselves as the ‘find a way’ NFL team earlier this year has continued to do just that. Each and every week, while ravaged with injuries, someone always seems to step up and impact the game in a big way, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
This group takes the ‘next man up’ mentality to heart, and in Sunday’s win over Denver, it was the unsung heroes of this Titans team that carried them to victory.
With Jeffery Simmons, Bud Dupree, Amani Hooker, Kristian Fulton, and Zach Cunningham all ruled out before the game, the Titans defense was going into Sunday depleted. When David Long Jr. and Elijah Molden both left mid-game with an injury, things got even worse.
There were legitimate periods of this game that Tennessee was missing eight of their regular 11 defensive starters. Long would later return, bringing that number back to seven.
#Titans defense currently down 8 starters. Easier to list the guys still in — Kevin Byard, Roger McCreary, and Denico Autry — than it is to list the guys currently out. Absolutely nuts.— Mike Herndon (@MikeHerndonNFL) November 13, 2022
Somehow, all of that didn’t seem to phase the Titans defense.
Josh Kalu and Terrance Mitchell both made big plays in the secondary, including multiple pass breakups and ultimately, the game-wining interception which Mitchell caught after Kalu got his hand on the ball.
Dylan Cole has continued to impress with his play in place of the injured Cunningham, flying to the football, delivering some big hits, and even getting to the quarterback for a clutch sack.
Possibly the biggest heroes from the win were the men in the trenches, winning up front and holding the Broncos to just 10 points.
No Jeffery Simmons. No Bud Dupree. No Harold Landry. No problem.
The Titans defensive line, still only rushing four defenders on most snaps, brought the pressure to Russell Wilson all game long. DeMarcus Walker (1.5), Rashad Weaver (1.5), Mario Edwards Jr. (1), and Naquan Jones (1) all contributed to the Titans defense racking up six sacks on the game.
Bottom line, this is one of the deepest and most talented position groups in the NFL, and everybody on this defensive front probably deserves more credit than they get. They produce nothing but quality snaps, and are always ready when their number gets called.
“Like Coach Vrabel said, next man up,” defensive end Demarcus Walker said about the group mentality. “That means going out there and doing what I’m called to do. Go out there and rush and be myself”…”You gotta seize your opportunities.”
Walker has undoubtedly been making the most of his chances. Over the Titans last three games, Walker has 3.5 sacks, and his increased snap count is a reflection of his production and work.
This level of quality depth is a rarity in today’s NFL, and these unsung heroes may wind up being what separates the Titans from the crowd later in the season.
Image via George Walker IV / Tennessean.com-USA TODAY NETWORK