It’s time to start talking about the Tennessee Titans as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
No, that’s not an overreaction. It’s not an emotional response to what was a shocking blowout win for the Titans over the Bills. It’s the truth.
If the Titans can blow out a team as good as Buffalo on the heels of an unwanted two-week vacation caused by a COVID-19 outbreak, they can do just about anything.
“The sky’s the limit,” WR A.J. Brown said.
PLENTY OF OBSTACLES
Asked Tannehill what kind of practice the #Titans got in before this game and how much was cold turkey. He said they had two walkthroughs and one practice that got “close” to full speed.
They won tonight’s game with one practice in the last two weeks.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) October 14, 2020
Entering this game, the Titans hadn’t played in 16 days. During that span, they held just one practice that wasn’t a mere walkthrough.
They were also missing several key starters who still had not been cleared after testing positive for the coronavirus, including DT Jeffery Simmons, WR Corey Davis, WR Adam Humphries and CB Kristian Fulton.
But the Titans were never going to let some missing starters be an excuse. They weren’t about to throw their hands up in despair over not having practice.
“We’re elite athletes. We’re going to run fast, we’re going to be strong, jump high,” TE Jonnu Smith said. “That’s what we’ve been doing our entire lives, and we’re the best at it. We knew that would be there.”
QB Ryan Tannehill shared a similar attitude.
“We were down some guys, had to have some guys step up and make some big plays for us that aren’t usually in those spots,” he said.
“We believed in each other and knew that guys in our building, on our team, were all we needed.”
THIS ISN’T NEW
That level of belief within a locker room doesn’t develop overnight. It doesn’t even develop in the midst of a virus outbreak during which the rest of the NFL seemingly wants to treat you like war prisoners.
The Titans’ performance on Tuesday didn’t begin their process of galvanizing—it was the culmination of the process.
“You don’t all of a sudden galvanize when things are bad,” head coach Mike Vrabel said.
“You don’t say, ‘there’s a sh*t storm, we better galvanize.’ You stay tight throughout, and then you hope that the fundamentals and your beliefs and values can take over when things get difficult.”
There will certainly be detractors who claim that the Titans’ performance on Tuesday was the result of the team heroically coming together in the face of hardship.
That narrative may tug at the heartstrings, but it simply isn’t true.
“They can say what they want, I’m not going to sit there and try to blame the hype,” DL DaQuan Jones said. “We know what we have in this locker room. We know the type of guys we have.”
“I’M NEVER GOING TO QUESTION THIS TEAM”
Derrick Henry on his stiff arm: “I’ve been doing too many curls. I’ve gotta lay off the arms.” #Titans
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) October 14, 2020
And that’s why it isn’t an overreaction to say that the Titans’ win over Buffalo points to them being legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
At 4-0, they currently sit atop the AFC. It’s hard to imagine them facing any tougher obstacles than they already have outside of better competition.
Let’s also not forget that the 2019 Titans were one win away from reaching the Super Bowl, and this year’s team is better in many ways than last year’s.
This team isn’t always going to look pretty, but they’re going to get the job done more often than not.
“I’m never going to question this football team, the effort,” Vrabel said. “I’m never going go into a game questioning how we’re going to do.”
It’s time for the outside world to stop questioning them, as well.
Cover image: Christopher Hanewinckel