Thanks to three important accomplishments from the offense and coaching staff, the Tennessee Titans defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in overtime.
In what may have been the most exciting game the Tennessee Titans have ever played, the team defeated the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles with just twelve seconds remaining in overtime.
The back-and-forth battle was one for the ages. To score in the extra period, the Titans had to convert three fourth down situations, one being 4th and 15.
With the return of All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin and a fully healthy Marcus Mariota, the Titans offense went into the game with high expectations. Those expectations were met, and not just in overtime.
En route to victory, the Titans offense was potent against the Eagles vaunted defense, especially in the second half. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was a big reason for the success.
Mariota led the Titans offense to three straight scoring drives to open the second half. The team scored 17 unanswered points to take a three-point lead after falling behind 17-3.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) September 30, 2018
In overtime, the offense was heroic. Mariota marched the Titans straight down the field in the extra period for the game-winning touchdown, converting the aforementioned three fourth downs in the process.
His day was not perfect, however. He threw an inexplicably bad interception late in the first half that could have spelled disaster. Yet, the Titans defense stepped up and held the Eagles to just a field goal.
Despite a very strong performance by the Titans defense against the ever-powerful Carson Wentz, it was the offense that allowed the team to win the game. The unit’s success came down to three keys.
Against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, Mariota proved that his mobility remains a powerful weapon. He led the Titans in rushing yards in that game, which made up for his limited throwing ability due to injury.
In his heroic performance against the Eagles, Mariota did it again. His 46 rushing yards led the Titans, which is not much of an accomplishment considering how poor the team ran the ball with Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry.
Still, Mariota’s ability to make plays with his legs constantly has gotten the Titans out of bad situations, especially against the Eagles. In overtime, Mariota turned a 3rd & 19 into a 4th & 2 with a 17-yard scramble. That allowed the Titans to keep their foot on the gas and made converting on fourth down a much easier proposition.
Mariota also put points on the board with his legs, reaching the end zone from two yards out in the third quarter.
He may not have the arm to sit back and win games from the pocket, but Mariota doesn’t have to. Part of what makes him so good is his mobility, which the Titans continue to utilize effectively.
Over the last several weeks, because of injuries to the offensive line and Mariota, the Titans have been limited in their ability to be creative on offense. Aside from the few wildcat snaps, the last few weeks have brought with them some very vanilla concepts.
With a fully healthy Mariota and offensive line at his disposal, offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur took things up a notch against the Eagles. He was able to push the ball downfield, something that helped every aspect of the offense.
Several times in Sunday’s game, Mariota was able to connect on deep passes to Corey Davis. There was also a handful of plays downfield that did not work out, such as Darius Jennings’ drop and Taywan Taylor’s tough play against Malcolm Jenkins.
Tackle Jack Conklin agrees that being able to work a legitimate aerial attack is a great help to the entire offense. “It was great, to have those guys get the chance to make those downfield plays and for them to go up there and make it, that was huge. We need Marcus to make those throws, and we need those receivers and tight ends to go down and make the catches. Credit them, they did a great job today.”
Because the Titans pushed the ball downfield, the short game was much more open and effective. It took guys out of the box and allowed Mariota to move around and be more comfortable.
Vrabel doubled down
Ever since taking over as the Titans head coach back in late-January, Mike Vrabel has repeatedly mentioned how important aggressiveness is to him. Often times when it comes to that with coaches, the words are empty.
But for Vrabel, he has consistently doubled down on that philosophy. He has gone on fourth down multiple times throughout the season, successfully executed a fake punt, and run several other trick plays.
No aggressive decision of Vrabel’s has been more telling, though, than the one he made against the Eagles in overtime.
With just 1:17 left in OT, the Titans offense has a 4th & 2 situation in front of them. They were down by three points and could have attempted a 49-yard field goal to tie the game.
Instead, Vrabel sent his offense back onto the field. It was, clearly, a decision that proved to be the right one.
Vrabel not settling for a tie is the epitome of what he has stood for thus far in his tenure as head coach of the Titans. It’s a mentality that his team very much appreciates.
Vrabel on aggressiveness. pic.twitter.com/X808PkHT8y
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) September 30, 2018
“He looks like me on Madden,” cornerback Adoree’ Jackson said of his head coach. “With that type of mentality and the guy that [Vrabel] is, you’re behind it. You’re fired up. Your mindset is, ‘we’re going to make a play.'”
Quarterback Marcus Mariota agrees with Jackson’s sentiment. “Honestly, it gives us a lot of confidence. [Vrabel] believes in us. He believes that we can go get that first down and win the game. When you have a head coach that believes in you, man, that means the world. I think he’s kind of instilled that since the beginning. I appreciate that he trusts us to go get it done.”
The Titans are truly putting something special together as they end the first quarter of the 2018 season. In the words of longtime member of Titans Radio, Rhett Bryan, “These guys remind me of the 1999 team.”
After defeating two of the four teams who played in last year’s championship weekend, the Titans surely have put the rest of the NFL on notice.
Cover image via Titans Online.