By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – December 8, 2019)
The Titans went to Oakland in a game both teams definitely needed, with a Raiders team that wanted to erase the bad taste of two straight awful blowout losses… and instead suffered their third in a row. Meanwhile, Tennessee became the only AFC South team to win on Sunday and boy, have things gotten interesting leading into the final three weeks of the regular season. Here are my Big 6 Takeaways from the 42-21 win over Oakland.
TANNE-THRILL… NOT EVEN NECESSARY. THIS WAS VIRTUOSO STUFF
I don’t even know what to say anymore. I still don’t think a long term deal of anything more than three years is a good move. I still think paying for a hot streak, which is what Mike Tanier suggested Tennessee is considering with Tannehill, is a potential disaster. But I also saw this in the NFL’s weekly media email:
“Tannehill joined AARON RODGERS (three games in 2011) as the only players to complete at least 75% of their passes with a rating of 130 or higher (minimum 10 attempts) in three consecutive games in a single season in NFL history.”
Oh, and then the next bullet point:
“Tannehill also joined RUSSELL WILSON (five games in 2015) as the only players with four consecutive games with at least two passing touchdowns and a passer rating of 125 or higher in NFL history.”
He was 21/27 for 391 yards, 3 TDs and the one INT off the deflection that came in the first quarter. He finished with a 77.8% completion percentage and a 140.4 passer rating. Guess what? The Raiders defense, particularly against the pass, stinks, and we knew it going in. But good football teams and good football players make a team miserable with its own weakness. There is NOTHING, zilch that I have to say negative about Ryan Tannehill. He was outstanding… again.
DERRICK HENRY JUST KEEPS ON KILLING OPPOSING DEFENSES
The Raiders got the better of the Titans OL several times and getting to the century mark was more difficult for Henry in this game, but he did it again. 18 carries for 103 yards and 2 rushing TDs. He caught his only target as a receiver, but he has feasted on the last four defenses he’s faced… eclipsing a hundy each time, and the 5.7 yards per carry he averaged on Sunday was tied for the WORST of those performances. What even is that?
I’ll tell you what it is. It’s “best back in the league” kind of stuff. Right now, I would take Derrick Henry over any running back in football. He’s on a season and a half hot streak, with very little to criticize. He still has yet to drop a pass since Tannehill took the starting gig, and he’s a bona fide stud in the backfield for the Titans, whose offense all of a sudden is…
TORCHING THE OPPOSITION
Is this LSU or the Tennessee Titans? The two toned blue is averaging 37.5 points per contest over the past month, including a pair of forty-burgers, the latest of which blew Oakland out on Sunday afternoon. The receivers are making plays, almost all of them, the OL is playing better, Lewan isn’t getting flags, and we already know exactly what Ryan Tannehill is doing.
He’s making himself a lot of money.
The Titans are good. I was going to put up one of the takeaways and ask the question as the title, but there’s no reason to do it. I don’t care that the wins during this stretch are largely against subpar opponents. The mark of a good team is bludgeoning or at least beating the bad ones. You have to take care of business to be taken seriously. If you want an example of it in college, look at Alamo Bowl bound Utah, who 72 hours ago had dreams of a College Football Playoff appearance before laying an egg to Oregon.
The Titans are handling business, increasingly in more impressive fashion. These aren’t last second wins anymore. They’re getting better. This was the exclamation point against a vulnerable Raiders secondary and with Josh Jacobs not available. This is what the Titans are SUPPOSED to do to THAT Raiders team. And they did.
PASS DEFENSE IS SHAKY
This one scares me looking at Deshaun Watson twice and Drew Brees in two weeks. With the Saints loss to the 49ers on Sunday, they may not have a shot at a bye, but they certainly won’t without running the table, so I would expect everybody to play in that game. The Titans pass defense entered Oakland ranked 27th in the NFL. The rush defense was just outside the top ten at 11, but this is a passing league and they’re going to see some stellar QBs for the rest of the season and certainly in the postseason.
This squad needs to get healthy real quick and start playing better football. That first half with Oakland showcased the flaws in coverage, technique, and depth that the Titans are dealing with at present. It must improve, or they’ll be a good team that makes the playoffs and then gets beaten by a few scores in their first postseason game. Derek Carr didn’t have a fun time in the second half, but he still finished without an INT and was efficient more often than not. That squad just doesn’t have weapons in the receiving game when the run game sans Jacobs doesn’t worry the defense.
This defensive performance against the Texans or the Saints, and what we’ve seen as of late, will get them beaten. They don’t need to “Titan Up,” they just need to tighten it up.
AJ BROWN IS A MONSTER
His yards after catch and yards after contact numbers are outrageous, especially for a rookie taken on day two of the NFL Draft. He’s the best receiver and the best fit on the team, which I’ve said for two months. On Sunday, he was everywhere, including on the receiving end of a crazy 91 yard touchdown grab. He also got in the endzone between the hash marks on a shorter route that involved breaking a few tackles and muscling his way in for six.
Dude is really good, he’s really hungry, he’s motivated, and he is only going to get better as time goes on. It’s unreal the level of chemistry he’s developed with Tannehill, as the flashes we saw with Mariota have become flash bang grenades with 17 throwing him the football. Five snags on Sunday for 153 and two more TDs.
He’s had a few dud games, but he’s a first year player, so it’s going to happen. In two of the last three, he’s caught 9 balls for 288 for 3 TDs. He is crucial to the Titans finishing the job in front of them and making the playoffs…and then advancing.
AFC SOUTH IN YOUR GRASP
Houston lost to Drew Lock and looked bad doing so at home on Sunday, but still hold the top spot over the Titans due to AFC wins and a 3-1 record in division games. What that means is simple… the Titans need to beat them twice. Tennessee is also outside of the Wildcard race, just beneath the Pittsburgh Steelers who win the tiebreaker because of their record in AFC matchups.
Remember what I told you after the Denver game, coming off the Buffalo loss. It may have been the Bills game that ended the Titans season, regardless of what was to come, but losing to the Broncos felt like the end. It no longer does, but if the Texans beat the Titans on Sunday, that’s it. The Steelers have two losable games in their final three, matching up with the Bills and Ravens. The third game is the Jets, who are, of course, the Jets.
We are setting up for something really similar to what we saw last season, where the Titans match up with an AFC South opponent in Week 17 and end up flexed onto Sunday Night Football because the winner gets in and the loser goes home. Right now, the game in Houston has a 1 PM ET kick… but that could change. Both teams 8-5 right now. Texans have the Bucs in the middle, Titans have the Saints.
It’s as simple as this. Titans win out and they’re in… if they go 2-0 against the Texans, they should be in… that’s asking a lot. Wouldn’t you love to have that Bills win right about now, or that Denver win? This is what I was talking about. There’s a path to the playoffs, but it would be so much easier had those blemishes not existed before the Tannehill switch.
It’s in their hands. They’re starting to make believers out of a lot of us. These three games are huge, they’re dangerous, and our eyes and ears will be glued and stapled to the screen and the speaker. It’s going to be fun… and nerve wracking. But the Titans are 8-5 and have won 6 of their last 7. Kudos to them. They deserve applause for the way they’re playing, taking advantage of favorable situations and bounces… and this offense has become one nobody wants to deal with, which is STUNNING, considering what we were watching in September and early October.