NASHVILLE — Unbeaten through six weeks of the 2020 season, October 18 is too early for Tennessee Titans (5-0) quarterback Ryan Tannehill to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award.

He certainly bolstered his resume a 42-36 overtime win Sunday over the division rival Houston Texans (1-5).

Running back Derrick Henry starred in a big way to make this latest conquest possible, to be sure. An otherworldly performance by the defending NFL rushing champ and a game-winner (264 all purpose yards & 2 rushing TDs) cannot be overshadowed. Tannehill could have easily folded after throwing an interception with his team trailing 30-29 with 8:30 remaining in the fourth quarter and lost any hope at the aforementioned candidacy.

The collapse never game and the time has come to take note.

Tannehill’s Case In Three Plays…The Throw

Tannehill came out swinging in the first half of Sunday’s victory.

The man formerly known best as a Miami Dolphins cast-off blew through the Texans’ secondary, going 14-of-19 for 149 yards & and three scores through the air to three different receivers. Of the many impressive throws Tannehill has made since assuming the staring role with the Titans, a 45-yard gain to tight end Anthony Firkser on Sunday becomes the latest in his growing catalogue.

The quarterback led his Ivy League pass-catcher with a beautiful throw lofted over linebacker Tyrell Adams once he saw that Firkser had a step on safety Justin Reid. Equal parts confidence and trust, Tannehill ripped the pass in for his tight end for yet another explosive play.

“Just a control and a calmness,” coach Mike Vrabel said of his quarterback. “These are … this is how we try to practice. We have done that. We moved quickly. Moved efficiently. It’s not just the quarterback. It’s everybody getting set, getting aligned, getting the call in quickly, getting the receivers set, the linemen set.”

Those kinds of throws have become a staple of Tennessee’s offense.

The Audible

Henry’s star shone brightest for a variety of reasons against Houston. His 94-yard touchdown run with 9:23 remaining re-captured the Titans’ lead.

It was unclear what offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s original play call was backed up on their own 6-yard line. It was clear, though, that Tannehill saw something in the defense that could be exploited on the ground. Tennessee called an audible that saw Henry take the handoff right, cut back left and pull away for another one of his signature scores.

“I’m not going to go too much in detail,” said Henry. “Just know that we hiked the ball, (Tannehill) handed it off too me and we went 94.”

One would never doubt the Titans’ running back’s abilities to take one deep, but the assist from his quarterback set him up for success.

The Final Drive(s)

Not two plays and 46 seconds after Henry’s long run, Deshaun Watson delivered a 53-yard bomb to Will Fuller and cause a lead change in favor of the Texans.

The outcome looked vastly more bleak when Tannehill threw his second interception of the season on the very next offensive play for Tennessee. Watson again drove the opposition down the field to throw a 4th-and-1 touchdown to Brandin Cooks for a 36-29 Houston advantage and 1:45 left in regulation. The Titans quarterback calmly picked and popped his way down the field, going 8-for-9, 76 yards and a fourth passing touchdown on the day to tie things up at 36 each.

“I just told him to throw me the ball no matter what,” A.J. Brown said of his second end zone snag. “Just throw it up. I’ll make a play. Like I said, I knew the ball was coming to me because he was going to give me an opportunity. It was on the left hash and a shorter throw. Like I said, I knew he was going to give me a chance, and he delivered a good ball and I made the catch.”

Overtime saw Tennessee win the toss, receive the ball and cruise 82 yards in six plays to set-up a Henry run out of the Wildcat for a dub.

Not Too High Or Too Low

Tannehill did less heavy lifting on the drive in extra time but completed both of his attempts and let his running back do the rest. On the whole, he finished 30-of-41 for 364 yards, the four scores, two turnovers and a rating of 122.4.

Through six weeks of the 2020 NFL season, Tannehill is completing 69.9% of his passes for 1,368 yards through the air, 13 passing touchdowns, 7.9 yards per attempt, 77 rushing yards and an additional score on the ground. Both his completion percentage and yards per attempt are greater than that of Patrick Mahomes (63.7% and 7.6 YPA), prior to Monday Night Football between the Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) and Buffalo Bills (4-1).

“MVP,” said Henry of Tannehill. “Let’s start the campaign right now. He’s not gonna get too high, but MVP, I think he should be in that conversation. Definitely.”

For a good chunk of their existence, the Titans have been an easy franchise to ignore.

The problem for the rest of the football world: Tannehill’s been too damn good to look away.

Featured Image: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports.
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