NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans (8-4) struggled in their series against AFC North teams this season. Culminating with Sunday’s 41-35 loss to the Cleveland Browns (9-3), Mike Vrabel’s squad finished 1-3 with losses to Cleveland, the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0) and the Cincinnati Bengals (2-9).
It took overtime for Tennessee to best the Baltimore Ravens (6-5) in their lone win against that division.
When it comes to NFL competition, anyone involved in the sport will tell you that no two weeks are the same. Three of the four AFC North clearly figured out how to attack the division-leading Titans, though. Those issues must be identified and corrected if there is to be sustainable postseason success for the local professional football team.
Tennessee’s offense was held scoreless in each of the contests they dropped against the AFC North this season.
On the whole, that has occurred four times total in 12 games and the Titans came out victorious only once (@ Denver, vs Pittsburgh, @ Cincinnati, vs Cleveland).
Against the Broncos, the beginning of Stephen Gostkowski’s kicking woes cost Tennessee a chance at an early lead. The Steelers offense started that game with the ball and then choked out the clock with 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Ben Roethlisberger orchestrated that masterpiece to run 9:18 off before Ryan Tannehill and Co. even saw the field.
The Titans quarterback’s only interception inside the 10-yard line this season cost his team a chance at first quarter points on the road against the Bengals and a questionable 4th-and-1 Down By Contact call on Derrick Henry seemed to turn the tide against the Browns.
It should be noted that Tannehill has only two red zone interceptions this season and is the third most efficient quarterback inside the 20. Only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have been better in 2020, according to Pro Football Reference.
A Common Thread?
Given four unique circumstances but only one win to show for it, where’s the commonality?
“The theme is always gonna be the same,” Vrabel said Monday. “You’re behind the chains, you’re forcing yourself to complete or pick up 3rd-and-long and, maybe, have to protect a little bit longer. And then there’s been a lot of games where we get into drives, we get that first first down and we’re able to stay complimentary and set our play passes up or run the football or get into some of those drive starters that we like. Those scripted plays that we feel like give us a chance. I don’t know exactly what the answer is for those drives that have stalled early on because I know that there’s a lot of drives that have been really good and have sustained 10 or 12 plays for a touchdown.”
Vrabel doesn’t have a specific response that ties those four situations together because there really isn’t one.
What is clear and obvious, though, is that the Titans go as their offense does. Three AFC North teams worked that to their advantage.
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