NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The 2019 Titans are a lot different than the 2017 Titans, the last time the franchise earned a playoff berth. They’re a lot better.
That team backdoored it’s way after a series of inexplicable losses to Blaine Gabbert and beating back up QBs.
While both of those teams posted the same regular-season record, the 2019 version of the Titans is simply better. More importantly, though, they’re a team with a better chance of winning in the postseason.
Why? Just look at the offense.
TITANS BY THE NUMBERS
Since QB Ryan Tannehill took over as the Titans’ starter in Week Seven, the team has built up a long list of top-tier statistical accomplishments.
During the last eleven weeks of the regular season, the Titans led the NFL in yards-per-play with 6.94.
All season long, they led the league in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on 75.6% of their trips inside the 20. They also boasted the NFL’s leading rusher (Derrick Henry, 1,540 yards).
The Titans offense also finished third in the league in terms of both average total yards-per-game (406.2) and total touchdowns (54) with only the one-seed 49ers and Ravens ahead of them in those categories.
IT’S THE TITANS’ PLAYERS, TOO
But the Titans offense is about more than just numbers. The unit deploys a dangerous group of weapons that any defense in the NFL should have no desire to face.
It starts with Henry, who led the league in rushing during the regular season and was named a second-team All-Pro Friday morning.
Henry’s ability to create big plays even when the blocking in front of him isn’t that great makes him a threat to score on even the simplest play design.
“The guy is an absolute monster, an absolute truck with the ball in his hands,” TE Jonnu Smith said. “I’m sure defenses don’t want to be tackling him all day.”
That has life a lot easier for offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who has settled in nicely over the course of his first season as an NFL play-caller.
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It also makes life a lot easier for Tannehill, whose season to this point has been nothing short of surprising and remarkable.
The eighth-year signal-caller, seemingly estranged when the Dolphins gave him up for a fourth-round draft pick back in March, led the NFL in passer rating during the regular season (10 starts).
“I think that now, where he’s at starting for us, it’s been everything that we’d hoped for having him come in—to be ready to go, to assume that role,” head coach Mike Vrabel said just a few weeks after Tannehill took over the job.
He’s been accurate and on-time with his throws. He’s been decisive, aggressive and efficient when he’s decided to tuck the ball and run.
Really, he’s been the complete package.
“He’s done a great job,” Henry said. “He’s confident, and he shows it in his play.”
MULTITUDE OF RECEIVING THREATS
Tannehill hasn’t been doing it alone in the passing game, though. He’s been helped out by a talented group of receiving threats, each of whom has the ability to contribute in a big way each week.
Foremost among them is A.J. Brown, whose 1,051 receiving yards on just 52 catches led all rookies. He’s displayed an incredible ability to make big plays and gain chunk yards after the catch, averaging 20.2 yards per reception.
TE Jonnu Smith has also been phenomenal after the catch, so good that legendary New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick places him among the league’s best.
“He can do a lot of things: blocks well, runs well, is a good receiver,” Belichick said. “I mean, hell, they played him at tailback. He looked pretty good back there.
“So, he’s a very athletic player, hard to tackle, catches the ball well. He’s great after the catch – probably the best in the league. I mean, I can’t imagine anybody better than him after the catch.”
Receivers Corey Davis and Tajaé Sharpe have also been productive for the Titans, each of them contributing in limited but still important roles.
The Titans’ volume of offensive weapons makes it difficult for opposing defenses to decide what they want to try and take away.
“It’s huge being able to spread the ball around,” Tannehill said. “Not only our backs out of the backfield, our tight end group, our receiving group, had different guys step up at different times in the receiving group.
“The more we can kind of spread the ball around and create matchups all across the field, it’s tough for teams to take away one guy.
“We have a lot of guys, so you don’t know who to try to take away,” Brown said. “You’ve really got to play everybody honest.”
So, while both the 2017 and 2019 Titans finished the regular season with a 9-7 record, this one is simply a far more potent threat.
Cover image: Troy Taormina/USA Today