By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – November 24, 2019)
The Titans had to have this one, and now with the Colts Thursday night loss to Houston, it’s two teams tied in division…but Indy with a head-to-head win that needs to be equalized on the road at the Drum. 42 points and another stellar Henry performance, plus Ryan Tannehill… put some respect on his name. He’s doing so much right for this franchise. Here are my Big 6 Takeaways from the 22 (fittingly) point victory over Jacksonville on Sunday.
THE THIRD QUARTER
248 total yards. The first half was about as boring as football can be, and then came the third quarter, where Derrick Henry, AJ Brown, Ryan Tannehill, the Titans OL, and basically everybody in a Titans uniform started balling out in a way that created the kind of NFL lead you don’t see all that often. It was a soul-crushing kind of quarter and the Jags body language defensively seemed eerily similar to what we saw on that fateful Thursday night in 2018.
Not much more to say, we all saw it, it was dominant and there was no coming back from it for the Jags, even though they fought hard. Nick Foles and Leonard Fournette in particular really gave it their all in a fourth quarter where the percentage chance of a comeback was almost invisible.
It’s Derrick Henry’s team, and when he plays well, the Titans usually win. The big dog ate… and ate a lot at Jag expense on Sunday. Take that performance and add to it Ryan Tannehill being mistake-free when it mattered, playing poised, and you’ve got what you need to make a playoff push. The vast majority of Henry’s touchdowns this season have come in the second half, which is common sense if you think about it, as he gets stronger as the defenders get fatigued dealing with him.
The way to run Derrick Henry is CONSISTENTLY and a never give up mentality. He is effective through attrition, which explains that third quarter. Once he got rolling, it was tough to stop him. Yes, he fumbled late in the third and that’s something he can’t do, but with that kind of lead, it’s a bit more forgivable.
The Jags have already given up 200 rushing yards four times this season, the most ever in one 16 game slate, and there’s still quite a bit to go. This defense can be had, which Henry proved. Also, the OL had a good day, without the mental lapses and discipline issues that have plagued them as of late.
Henry finished with 19 carries for 159 yards and two TDs, including a remix of the stiff-arm from 2018. Straight up nasty, he is. (I’m talking like Yoda now. Just go with it.)
4-1 as the Titans starter. There’s no way to say whether Marcus Mariota would be 4-1 over this five game stretch, but it doesn’t matter anyway. This has become his team, at least from the quarterback spot. It’s an offense that Derrick Henry makes go, but 17 continues solid play. Entering the fourth quarter, he was 13/17 for 244 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. He played within himself, yet again, and found the open man.
Oh, he also had three carries at that point for 40 yards and a rushing TD. Nothing more you can ask of him. He’s earning a future Titans paycheck, at least as a bridge starter, right before our eyes.
He hadn’t been featured much in a few games, but I’ve been running his fan club throughout the season. On Sunday, he was dominant, and it wasn’t 20 catches…it was massive yardage and maximizing the damage done with every reception. Ryan Tannehill, we have to hope, is building more rapport with his rookie wide out, because the Titans can’t survive forever with Adam Humphries being the team’s leading pass catcher. It’s great he’s involved, but these guys that can stretch the field must be allowed to do just that.
Sunday was a definite step in the right direction for AJ Brown, who stepped up and performed in a must-win game for his team.
DIVISION WIN OPENS UP POSSIBILITIES
Finally an AFC South win, and with the division leader only 7-4 and two opportunities to play that team in the final three weeks of the regular season, the Tennessee Titans could be in a position to control their own destiny. The Colts are looking anything but cohesive offensively and are dealing with injuries, but the Titans have already lost to them once. The first goal will assuredly be to end that losing streak to Indy, but it’s going to come down to Texans vs. Titans from there.
With the Raiders losing badly to the Jets on Sunday, the game in Oakland on December 8 takes on added importance. I still believe that game is essentially a knockout game for the loser, at least as it relates to a Wildcard berth. The Bills already have eight wins, with one being a head-to-head victory over the Titans. It may be easier to win the DIVISION than reach the Wildcard, just because of those two Texans games looming down the stretch.
NO COMEBACK REQUIRED
Phil Collins didn’t need a jacket… Ryan Tannehill didn’t need a come-from-behind drive. This was Tennessee’s game to win, and once they shook off a little dust in the first half, that third quarter sealed things up neatly and nicely. You can argue there were some leaks in the fourth quarter on defense, and credit to Nick Foles and the Jags for continuing to play hard and make the Titans earn it, but that was much too big a hole to dig out of at 35-3.
Check that… there were some leaks on defense. The fourth quarter wasn’t a banner one for that group, and the injury to Cam Wake was a little concerning as well. Still though, when you’re sitting on 42 points, some things can be at least mildly overlooked.
You need a week or two where you simply beat another team down, and the Titans got it on Sunday. Had Tannehill needed the comeback, at this point I’m willing to suggest he might have pulled it off, but good that he didn’t need it.
The Titans entered 5-5, knowing essentially this was one they couldn’t afford to lose. The rest of the schedule is tough, make no mistake, but the Titans are in position to control their future because of the two Texans matchups and another shot at the Colts. That game with Indy… boy oh boy is that big. The least important game on the schedule is the Saints, even if we want to see Drew Brees at Nissan. The Raiders game is CRITICALLY important to stay afloat in the Wildcard race, but right now, Tennessee should be looking at the AFC South as theirs…if they can handle business.
I don’t know that I trust that, but I feel a little better about it today than I did a month ago, that’s for sure.