NASHVILLE — The last time the Tennessee Titans beat a Minnesota Vikings team was the 2008 season. That year was also the last time Tennessee began a campaign 3-0.
Undefeated through three games on the leg of a kicker who missed his first four kicks as a Titan. Who’d have thunk?
The way that this franchise wins its games borders incomprehensible. But, the record states that Tennessee belongs with only Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Chicago among the ranks of the unbeaten (at 4:21 pm on Sunday). The Titans will face all three of those teams in their next five contests.
So, what common denominator can be found in this string of successes?
Mike Vrabel on the #Titans offense: No panic
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) September 27, 2020
“There’s no panic,” coach Mike Vrabel said postgame via Zoom. “I think the defense gave us some stops when we had to have stops and every phase of our team has to improve and get better. But, there’s no panic. We needed to be better and help out and get some hard yards there for Stephen (Gostkowski) but that’s how the situation turned out. He made a great kick and then the defense executed their part.”
One could hardly blame Vrabel & Co. if they would have admitted to any kind of consternation.
Tennessee trailed the Minnesota Vikings (0-3) for a good part of Sunday afternoon when their prolific red zone offense failed them. Left tackle Taylor Lewan exited the game early with what appeared to be some kind of neck injury and Johnathan Joseph’s Pick Six got erased by a penalty on Jadeveon Clowney. The defense got off easy again after giving up 464 yards to Minnesota and 480 the week prior to Jacksonville.
The Titans are a suspect 3-0 team with much more to prove. Thus far, they are equal parts lucky and just good enough.
3-0! 👑 pic.twitter.com/mXbHEC5jTl
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) September 27, 2020
Now, the Steelers (3-0) come to Nissan Stadium.
Tennessee will likely still be without top corner Adoree’ Jackson and A.J. Brown, the team’s best receiver. Derrick Henry’s strong showing (26 for 119, 4.6 avg, 2 TDs) will quiet most fears about a slow-starting ground game. The biggest improvements must come in coverage and hurrying opposing quarterbacks or this defense will finally cost the Titans in the win-loss column. Vic Beasley’s emergence did help at times but Clowney cannot have an average pressure distance from the QB at the time of the passer throw or sack of 4.72 yards when the NFL average, per Next Gen Stats, is 4.51.
“Proud of our guys,” said quarterback Ryan Tannehill. “Our focus, our attention to detail in those tight moments. We believe in each other, we stick together and we keep fighting. Found a way to get ourselves in field goal range there and, obviously, Stephen with a big kick there to win.”
Gostkowski’s heroics aside, (6-of-6, 55-yard game-winner) belief in self is something many Tennessee teams before this one have lacked. That faith in each other will truly be put to the test in Week 4.
For their sake, it had better come with better tackling and secondary coverage.
Featured Image: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.