Mike Herndon: Ryan Tannehill lifted Titans pass game to much better level

By MIKE HERNDON, columnist

As we covered in this space a week ago, the Titans' passing attack had been anemic through the first eight games of the 2022 season. Only the 2021 and 2022 Bears had passed for fewer yards through their first eight outings in the past decade.

However, Ryan Tannehill’s return from an ankle injury sparked a 17-10 come-from-behind win at Nissan Stadium over the Broncos that featured 244 total passing yards and two touchdowns through the air against what was the NFL’s best pass defense by DVOA heading into the game.

Ryan Tannehill Huddle

Pool photo/ Tennessee Titans

After the team combined for just 97 total passing and no touchdowns in the two weeks with rookie Malik Willis under center, 244 felt like 400.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans have time.

Barring something crazy, they will win the AFC South, enter the playoffs as a top-four seed and host a game at Nissan Stadium on Jan. 14, 15 or 16.

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine

Courtesy Tennessee Titans

But the trip to 6-3 has lacked smoothness and even by their own accounts, while the wins have been satisfying, they need to play better to have a chance at a playoff run.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Vrabel has always believed in players over plays.

So maybe his answer to a Monday question about the quality of the Titans’ offensive coordination was really an indictment of his team’s offensive personnel.

VrabelSmileAF

Mike Vrabel/ photo by Angie Flatt

While I don’t believe he’s happy with the state of the team’s wide receivers or offensive line, I also don’t think that’s what he was getting at when I asked him, “Are you satisfied with the way play-calling has gone this year?” though I probably, technically, left him too much room to talk about the actual operation rather than the results.

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Scout's take: Details on how the Titans forced Russell Wilson into troubles

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- How did the Titans win this game without a running game and multiple starters out?

The Titans didn’t win time of possession, the Broncos had 34 minutes to the Titans 26. The Broncos ran for 65 yards to the Titans' 63. The Broncos had 248 yards passing to the Titans' 244

Russell Wilson sacked

Courtesy Tennessee Titans

The Titans did have more penalties (nine) to the Broncos (eight).

So how did they do it?

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Screen Shot 2022 11 13 at 6.04.29 PMNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans boosted their record to 6-3, but once again we were left to discuss a lot of concerns that cropped up amid a win. 

The passing offense showed life and the pass rush was solid even without Jeffery Simmons and Bud Dupree in the 17-10 win over Denver. The Titans found a way to beat an inferior team without several of their best people, and without a lot from their centerpiece in Derrick Henry.

But they dropped a lot of balls on offense and defense too, they couldn't stay out of the neutral zone on defense and they really couldn't do much on offense in the first half. (So at least that means they did some things in the second half, which is a lot different than the norm, right?)

Many of you joined me to talk about the game from the Nissan Stadium press box. You can watch by heading to the private Facebook page or heading below.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On his way into the locker room after warmups, as the field goal team lined up for its customary final practice try, Ryan Tannehill pantomimed a kick alongside it before heading inside.

On an afternoon when the Titans were without five defensive starters and lost another key guy along the way in his first game of the season, it didn’t come to the quarterback kicking field goals for Randy Bulluck, who hurt himself before the game. Tannehill said the one time he tried a kick as a college freshman he drilled the left guard in the back of the head.

Rashad Weaver

Rashad Weaver hits Russell Wilson/ Photo by Angie Flatt

But a lot sure went wrong for the Titans, who nevertheless found a way to win another one. This time it was a 17-10 home win over the offensively inept Denver Broncos that lifted Tennessee’s record to 6-3.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Greetings and happy football weekend. 

I hope you'll listen to this week's podcast before the game. You'll find directions to it right here.

FlameheadFan

Thanks to all of you who sent questions my way. Feel free to fire them off at any time via Twitter or Facebook.

Now onto your best material.

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PodcastArtNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A new podcast episode awaits you and you can find it on Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

Whichever platform you prefer, please subscribe, rate and review.

Subjects I delve into:

  • How the Titans are judging and deploying personnel.
  • The depth of defensive injuries.
  • The concept of scheming people open
  • More stuff Derrick Henry is on the verge of and what he said about getting caught from behind.
  • Running on second-and-10 after throwing incomplete.
  • Stats you need to know

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