NASHVILLE — When the Tennessee Titans (10-4) travel to Green Bay in Week 16, they will need a pass rush to give them a chance. Rookie Teair Tart remains the only player outside of the usual suspects that has showed promise.

Tennessee’s desperate for help in that department.

The Titans have accumulated only 14 sacks in 2020. The current season-low record for the franchise, per John Glennon, is 31. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt has racked up 13 sacks on his own this season for reference. Tart has not yet brought the quarterback down (officially) this year but gave Tennessee’s defense a little of the spark it needed in Sunday’s 46-25 win over the Detroit Lions (5-9).

Defeating the Packers (11-3) will take more of the same.

Tart and the Titans

Nothing about Teair Tart’s stat line in 2020 jumps off the screen.

Dec 20, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) is sacked by Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Teair Tart (93) during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In six games, the undrafted rookie free agent from Florida International is credited with four tackles, one for loss, one pass defensed and two quarterback hits. Tart’s rookie campaign also includes a one-game suspension handed down by the NFL for being deemed to have purposely stepped on Cleveland Browns guard Wyatt Teller.

The rookie’s effort, ability to finish and disruption, though, regularly show up on tape.

“I think (Tart)’s making good progress,” Titans defensive line coach Terrell Williams said on Tuesday. “Again, with all of those young players at all positions, its a little bit of a struggle for them not having an offseason program and limited training camp. But I think he’s come in and has done a good job for us. Big strong guy with some athletic ability and wants to get better. So, love working with him.”

Highway (Sack) Robbery

Tennessee’s league-worst pass rush is as bad as it seems. There is no avoiding that fact.

The Titans’ defense is 30th this season in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) against the pass in large part due to their inability to generate pressure, per Football Outsiders. As always, DVOA stats are adjusted to an average percentage of fumbles recovered by the offense. Quarterback scrambles are counted as passing plays rather than rushing plays. Defenses are adjusted for playing indoors.

Dec 6, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Teair Tart (93) walks to the field before the game before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

At least twice this season, though, Tart has been robbed of sack statistics.

“I think (Teair) Tart continues to improve,” said head coach Mike Vrabel on Monday. “There were a few plays that I’m sure he’d like to have back (against Detroit), that we’ve got to get corrected. But I thought he got off the ball. I thought he got on the edge of the center. He thought he had a sack against Lamar Jackson that ended up not being sack. I think he’s hoping this one gets overturned. He’s a young player. He’s waiting for his first sack.”

On 2nd-and-8 from the Detroit 27-yard line, center Joe Dahl fumbled the snap to quarterback Matt Stafford.

Stafford recovered the ball at the Lions’ 21 and was tackled for a one-yard loss by Tart at the 20. The play initially looked like the Titans 15th sack of the season but was ruled an aborted play and fumble recovery. The stat change negated yet another defensive takedown from the box score.

Rushing Rodgers

The Chiefs, Packers and Titans rank as the Top 3 offenses in the NFL this season by any number of measurements.

Dec 19, 2020; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs for a gain against the Carolina Panthers during their football game Saturday, December 19, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers-USA TODAY NETWORK

The difference in the three teams, though, is overall balance. Kansas City sports a defense that ranks 8th in points allowed per game (22.1) and Green Bay is 14th (24.2). Tennessee sits at 21st this season with 25.8 ppg allowed on average and a pass rush that is really only one in name. Rodgers does not take sacks (18) and averages a time-to-throw of 2.72 seconds. If the Titans are to defeat the Packers, they must do it by somehow throwing the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback out of rhythm.

Teair Tart remains Tennessee’s best option to help with that effort not named Harold Landry or Jeffery Simmons.

Featured Image: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.
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