NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The spark that the Tennessee Titans offense got from QB Ryan Tannehill’s entrance into the starting lineup in their Week Seven win over the Chargers was nowhere to be seen on Sunday in their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Yet, that mostly mediocre output from the offense was enough to get the job done, thanks to a stellar performance from a defense that ended the day with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
An underwhelming performance like this one for the offense, though, might be the blueprint for the Titans to win games moving forward. It might have to be.
That’s both fortunate and unfortunate.
It’s fortunate because it means that the defense is really good, and they are indeed that. But it’s unfortunate because it also means that the offense is a liability.
When things are going poorly for the Titans offense, as they often did on Sunday when the unit wasn’t in ideal circumstances, big plays from the defense can serve as both a jolt of energy and a kick in the rear.
“We knew to go into this week that turnovers were going to be huge in this game,” said safety Kevin Byard, who thinks the Titans defense takes pride in the times when they’re able to help out the offense. “Watching the film, we knew we were going to have opportunities to make plays. I think we did that.”
The strength of the Titans defense allows for the team to win games despite disappointing play from the offense. As long as the offense isn’t a disaster, and it wasn’t on Sunday, the Titans have a chance to win pretty much any game they play.
It was the defense’s four turnovers, and the offense’s ability to capitalize on them, that propelled the Titans their 27-23 win against the Buccaneers that gets them back to .500 on the season.
“Without that, it’s obviously probably a different story,” said head coach Mike Vrabel.
Two of those turnovers, an Isaiah Mack fumble recovery off of a botched snap and a Malcolm Butler interception, set the Titans’ offense up inside the 10-yard line.
“It’s huge,” Tannehill said. “Those two early ones put us inside the ten. Not too many times that happens in the NFL. Those were huge plays that we really leaned on in the first half.”
To the offense’s credit, they capitalized on the good field position, scoring touchdowns both times that they were set up inside the 10.
Outside of that, however, the offense didn’t do much of anything. They struggled to finish drives, twice settling for field goals. They scored just 13 points on drives where they didn’t start inside the 10-yard line.
Because of the defense’s strength, though, that was good enough to get a win.
The Titans aren’t going to be playing the Buccaneers and turnover-happy QB Jameis Winston every game for the remainder of the season, but this was also the first time this season that the defense allowed more than 20 points.
Assuming things get back to normal in that regard, an effort like the one the Titans offense had against the Buccaneers can lead to more wins.
It’s not an ideal situation for the Titans to be in, but it’s the one they’re in nonetheless.
Cover image: Jim Brown/USA Today