Heading into Sunday’s 30-24 win over the Ravens, the Tennessee Titans weren’t in a good place. They had lost three out of their last four, including their Thursday-night meltdown against the Colts.
That slump made it difficult to remember any of the Titans’ good characteristics. It became easy to feel like they were a far cry from being playoff contenders and that the walls were quickly crashing down.
On Sunday, the Titans reminded everyone that the opposite of those things is what’s actually true. At 7-3, the Titans are right in the thick of the AFC playoff race and, though they continue to struggle in some key areas, the walls are, in fact, not crashing down.
“We were struggling a bit, to put it simply,” QB Ryan Tannehill said. “Just not playing consistently enough and we needed to get back on track. Today, we were able to fight through some adversity.”
NOT AN EASY WIN
All the Titans fans who gave up on the team last week pic.twitter.com/zm9NQcktk9
— Nick Lombardi (@NF_Lombardi) November 22, 2020
The Titans’ win over Baltimore didn’t come easily. The Ravens took a 21-10 lead in the third quarter, and the typically blue-chip Titans offense sputtered for a majority of the game.
But wins against the Ravens don’t come easily. That’s why it was so shocking when the Titans dismantled Baltimore in the 2019 postseason and why it’s not concerning that the Titans’ didn’t cruise to a win in this one.
“This is the NFL, you aren’t just going to go out there and roll over everybody,” WR A.J. Brown said. “You’ve just got to show up each and every week.”
That’s precisely what the Titans did on Sunday, and they reminded everyone that, though they’re not going to be terribly flashy or blow many teams out of the water, they know how to win.
And, unlike a lot of the things that head coach Mike Vrabel spouts during press conferences, that isn’t coach speak.
The ability to find ways to win, though difficult to assess, it’s a real trait, and it’s one that many middling teams in the NFL covet.
Ryan Tannehill on getting a win: I don’t think we ever lost faith. We were struggling there for a little while…We have a lot of confidence on this team #Titans
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) November 22, 2020
It’s also why the Titans are in such a good position in the playoff picture, despite having one of the NFL’s worst third-down defense and a frequently problematic special teams unit.
Beating Baltimore was huge for the Titans when it comes to the playoff picture. Whereas, entering the game, the Titans were on the outside looking in, now, they would have a playoff spot if the season ended today.
“We all week about how it’s backed up in there and we’re going to have to start doing things that will break us away from the pack,” Vrabel said.
While the Titans would obviously prefer to win the division, getting the head-to-head edge over Baltimore would give them a big advantage if they end the season needing one of the AFC’s three wildcard spots.
“I feel really good,” Evans said. “This is about playing your best games at the end of the season. There are going to be some teams that start to decline, some that start to elevate, and some that will maintain.
“The No. 1 thing we want to do is elevate and get better each week.”
Essentially, Sunday’s game served as a reset for the Titans. Ten days after a terribly disappointing loss to the Colts, they took down one of the NFL’s most talented teams and significantly improved their standing within the playoff picture.
For fans who were ready to wave the white flag, declare the season over and begin composing a list of needed firings, the win should serve as a reminder that the Titans’ aren’t nearly to that point.
They’re flawed and may not be as good as we all thought following their 5-0 start to the season, but they’re good. Most importantly, they know how to win.
Cover image: Tommy Gilligan / USA Today