After last Sunday’s 42-20 drubbing of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tennessee Titans improved to 6-5. With the win, they are at a four-way tie for the final wild-card spot and only one game back of the AFC south leader Houston.
An aggressive third quarter opened a lot of NFL fan’s eyes to what the Titans can do. The offensive line seems to be getting better (gradually). The offense is rejuvenated with Ryan Tannehill under center, and the defense has been playing more aggressively despite a leaky secondary.
So what did we learn after the win?
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been solid since replacing incumbent starter Marcus Mariotta on week seven. Tannehill has thrown for 1,276 yards and a 10-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, going 4-1 in that time. His play raises some interesting questions about who should be under center this year and beyond.
But quarterback controversies in Nashville are for another time and place.
As we travel back to Sunday’s game let’s take a look at Tannehill’s passing stats real quick:
In the last two Titans wins, Tannehill has thrown only 37 times with a 72.9% completion rate. Consider that he threw two more times in the week nine loss to Carolina. What’s the difference? A running game that is firing on all cylinders allows Tannehill to play an aggressive but limited passing attack. That plays to his ability to be proficient when only given a certain amount of pass attempts. The line play for Tennessee has vastly improved, giving Ryan time in the pocket.
But it’s been Tannehill’s most enduring quality to be dare I say it, a “game manager.” But it’s not a bad thing. Tannehill is no gun-slinger like Patty Mahomes or the second coming of Bobby Douglass in the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson. His strengths are efficiency, and like he was against the Chiefs in the last drive of the game, aggressive when need be it.
Tannehill’s career-high passing attempts read like this: When throwing more than 40 attempts, Tannehill is 2-17 as a starter with 7 of those losses being by less than a touchdown. When throwing for less than 30 attempts, he is 25-11, including 6-1, if held under 20 attempts (the one loss was coincidentally against the Titans in ’16).
Much like my grandparent’s sex tape, I don’t want to see Ryan Tannehill throw over 30 times in a game.
Now the big reason for Ryan Tannehill’s success has been because of the performance of running back Derrick Henry.
The Titans are averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the ground, and according to the website Football Outsiders are second in the league in “Power Success.” That means, “ Percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. It also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer.”
Henry has slain the Jaguars more than the Aztecs did averaging 109.5 yards a game in his six wins against Jacksonville, which is by and far the largest average against any team he has faced.
The endgame of the Titans and their running attack is pound and ground and break one eventually. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, Henry seems to break the big ones against them.
In addition to his 74-yard touchdown run last Sunday, he had the infamous 99-yard run against the Jags on a Thursday night game last year. In the season finale in 2017, he broke off a 66-yard touchdown reception in a win against Jacksonville.
Henry’s primary attribute is to run a lot. Wear out the defense, and eventually, the running game gets started, and Henry and company run wild on opposing teams.
For Tennessee to have a deep run they need to keep Henry running and hope he stays healthy.
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