Titans Divisional Key: Don’t Sleep on Ryan Tannehill

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Oct 20, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) passes against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the Tennessee Titans’ big win over the New England Patriots, quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been overlooked. Everyone has looked at wild card weekend and proclaimed that the Titans are a low-scoring, one-dimensional team that can only win defensive struggles. Recency bias is showing. Yes, the Titans’ defense was phenomenal after early struggles and Derrick Henry was almost unstoppable. However, Ryan Tannehill was a big part of the win and has been the reason for the Titans’ turnaround this season.

Don’t Just Scout Box Scores

Ryan Tannehill had a sub-par stat line on Saturday night. He went 8-15 for 72 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Those numbers don’t look good if you didn’t watch the game. However, Tannehill made two clutch third-down throws to Anthony Firkser that ultimately were huge in getting the Titans to the win. The first was a strike for a touchdown and the second helped them ice the game at the end. The interception was not a good decision, but outside of that, Tannehill wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t a big part of the game plan.

Tannehill has been fantastic since taking over for Marcus Mariota in Week 7. He finished the season with the highest passer rating in the NFL and the Titans averaged just under 30 points per game. People have quickly forgotten how good this Tennessee passing attack has been with Tannehill under center. A game that the Titans win where he has bad stats shouldn’t make everyone assume Tennessee can’t throw the ball.

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Setting Up the Play Action

The Ravens like to blitz. Baltimore will send some exotic blitzes in order to get the Titans behind the sticks and force Tannehill to throw the ball downfield. The key for Tennessee is getting Derrick Henry going in order to make the field open up for Tannehill. The Titans didn’t take their shots against the Patriots last week. In order to keep up with the Ravens, they’ll have to take some this week.

This week, Tannehill will have to throw more than 15 times and will have to make big plays in the air. The Ravens will put up points and the Titans can’t keep up by just running Henry up the gut. However, the Titans have confidence in Tannehill. The Ravens will load the box and Tannehill has to be on his game. If the Titans can come out and set up the play-action for big plays, they can win this game. The Titans game plan last week was to run Derrick Henry until his legs fell off because Mike Vrabel knew that the defense could hold the Patriots’ offense. A.J. Brown had just one catch for four yards last week. I expect a much different game plan this week that allows Tannehill to throw the ball downfield to Brown and other playmakers.

How Can the Titans Pull Off the Upset?

It starts with Henry. The Titans need to establish the run early and put points on the board. If they fall behind by a few scores, the game is just about over. Then, the Ravens will start to load the box and the Titans should go for the jugular and take a few shots downfield. Tannehill can get it done for Tennessee in the air, but it all starts with Henry and controlling the clock. A good balance of the two could get Tennessee to the AFC Championship.

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