Titans – Bills Recap

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) celebrates with fans as he leaves the field after beating the Bills at Nissan Stadium Monday, Oct. 18, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Nelles, Tennessean.com

Lose to the Jets? Check.

Beat the hottest team in football two weeks later? Check.

This has been the trend of the Mike Vrabel era in Tennessee. Can the Titans beat anyone in the league? Absolutely. Unfortunately, whether due to stagnant offense, porous defense or decimating injuries, the Titans can also lose to anyone in the league. Not exactly a formula for a Super Bowl team, but as we head into Week 7, Tennessee has to like their chances to compete in a top-heavy AFC. Amidst their toughest stretch of the season, the Titans are 1-0 in their four-game gauntlet.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) keeps Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) at arms length as he runs for a touchdown at Nissan Stadium Monday, Oct. 18, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.
Photo courtesy of George Walker IV, Tennessean.com

It doesn’t take a genius to recap the Monday Night thriller detailing how the Titans came away with the win. One word: King. Derrick Henry again proved he is one of (if not) the best players in all of football. He is on pace to shatter records like rushing yards, attempts and touchdowns. Some of which would be broken even in a 16-game season. Tennessee is being carried by this man, and thankfully it appears many of us on #TitansTwitter are aware of the greatness we’re witnessing. In the passing era, Henry is thriving and putting up hall-of-fame numbers. If he’s not in contention for the MVP (currently +2200 on BetMGM), then the league should just rename the award to MVQ: most valuable quarterback.

The lingering health concerns are problematic for Tennessee. First-round cornerback Caleb Farley tore his ACL as did WR/KR Cam Batson. Pro-Bowl LT Taylor Lewan was carted off on a stretcher in a very scary scene. Thankfully, Lewan was able to regain motion in all of his extremities. He is currently being evaluated for a concussion. Cornerback is a glaring need for this team moving forward with second-year CB Kristian Fulton on IR for the next couple of weeks. Less pressing, but just as prevalent is wide receiver. AJ Brown was held off the stat sheet in the first half as he battled food poisoning, but erupted in the second half. We hope to get vintage AJB next week vs. Kansas City. Julio Jones reeled in an acrobatic catch in the game before eventually being ruled out late in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. The lack of chemistry on both sides of the ball continues to be a problem, and these injuries are doing nothing to help.

Tennessee Titans free safety Kevin Byard (31) celebrates after they beat the Bills at Nissan Stadium Monday, Oct. 18, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.
Photo courtesy of George Walker IV, Tennessean.com

Buffalo played a great game and it’s easy to see why they are one of the best teams in football. Sean McDermott is one of the best head coaches in the league and I agreed with his decision to go for it, not solely due to the result of the play. If you have the best offense in football, and a defense being torched by Tennessee in the second half, it makes sense that you would attempt to go 3 yards for the win. Buffalo was better on 1st downs (28-16), total plays (73-51), third down percentage (54percent to 40 percent), and time of possession by nearly six minutes. Where the Titans won the game was in the redone. Tennessee played a bend-don’t-break defense all night long coming up big in the redone, stopping Buffalo from scoring touchdowns multiple times. Kevin Byard netted another interception, Harold Landry netted another sack, and big Jeff Simmons make another game-ending play in the interior. If this defense can get it going, watch out.

Kudos to Vrabel and the entire coaching staff. Nowadays, we always see coaches burn their timeouts to preserve clock for a game-winning drive. Not Vrabel. Instead he put the pressure on Buffalo to either score a TD or settle for a FG, and made THEM play clock management instead of him. Genius. My impression from watching and re-watching the final drive was that this unconventional approach had the Bills feeling uncomfortable the entire time. I’ve been saying it for two years now, this is the first time I’ve ever thought the head coach of the Tennessee Titans is capable of winning a championship. Whether or not the roster can live up to the expectation remains to be seen. 

Ryan Tannehill had a rough start to the game, but orchestrated yet another GW-drive in the fourth quarter. Tannehill was a perfect 9/9 in the final quarter and was good when the game mattered most. I’m currently eating crow on my Ryan Tannehill MVP prediction, and I’ll own that. However, according to ESPN’s Mike Clay, the Titans have scored just 33 percent of their touchdowns through the air. Their expected rate based on play-calling is 58 percent, right on par with their averages in previous years: 57 percent (2020) and 59 percent (2019). Simply put, expect better passing numbers from Tannehill moving forward. Buy-low in fantasy now, he’s practically free.

Getty Images

One down. Three to go. Couldn’t ask for a better start to the “gauntlet” if you’re Tennessee. The Titans face a middling Chiefs team who is eager to right their ship get back to above .500 (3-3). Tennessee and Kansas City have given us some classics in recent years including a game-winning FG, a game-winning BLOCKED field goal, and two playoff comeback victories. It’s a shame the game cannot be flexed to Sunday Night, but it will be a great afternoon nonetheless.

“Gauntlet” Results:

Week 6: vs. Buffalo (MNF) – WIN

Week 7: vs. Chiefs – ?

Week 8: @ Colts – ?

Week 9: @ Rams (SNF) – ?

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