Despite the incompetence they displayed in a meltdown performance against the Bengals, writing the Tennessee Titans off at this point in the season would be an overreaction.

Criticism of the Titans following their 31-20 loss to the previously 1-5-1 Bengals on Sunday is more-than-fair, but the narrative that they’re hopeless and on the verge of a collapse just isn’t true.

The Titans are deeply flawed, yes, but they’re far from hopeless.

“We’re not panicking,” WR Corey Davis said. “We’ve got a lot of guys out there who have been down before, not only in this game but in life.”


Some of those deep flaws, though, are highly concerning, and they have to be addressed. The most notable of them, as has been the case throughout the entire season, is third-down defense.

To call the Titans’ third-down defense a weakness would be the understatement of the century. The statistically-worst unit in the NFL turned in yet another clunker against the Bengals on Sunday, allowing QB Joe Burrow and crew to convert 10 of 15 third downs.

It’s become reminiscent of some kind of ad campaign for the classic Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day.”

In every game, the Titans stink on third down. In every postgame press conference, players and coaches talk about how things need to get better. Then, things don’t get better. Rinse and repeat.

“If I had the right answer for why we were unable to get off the field on third down today, I would tell you,” safety Kevin Byard said.

It has to be maddening for a roster made up mostly of players who have been successful during their careers. It’s not like the Titans have a bunch of scrubs on defense—save, perhaps, 36-year-old CB Johnathan Joseph.

The players who are underperforming are, in some cases, household names like Byard and Jadeveon Clowney.

In other cases, the underperformers are players Titans fans have grown to love over recent years; Kenny Vaccaro, Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, each of whom has been mostly invisible in 2020, fit into that category.


Yet, nobody should be raising the white flag on the Titans’ season.

They’re 5-2 and tied for first place in the division. They have an offense that typically scores points at one of the NFL’s highest rates.

This is also the franchise that rebounded from a dismal 2-4 start in 2019 to become one of the most feared teams in the league by the end of the season.

If they were capable of getting that ship turned back in the right direction, they’re capable of fixing things now, too.

That’s not to say, though, that the Titans are likely to get things fixed.

Sunday’s performance was an embarrassing one, and the team has a lot of work to do. They have a lot of changes to make, perhaps starting with some much-needed lineup adjustments on defense.

“If you play like that in the National Football League, you’re going to lose,” head coach Mike Vrabel said.

But all hope is not gone for the 2020 Tennessee Titans. To believe that would be to forget about the five straight wins they racked up to start the season.

“We have all that we need in this locker room, we just need to clean some things up and be able to go out and play full games,” QB Ryan Tannehill.

Cover image: Joseph Maiorana / USA Today
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