NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In a crucial game against the Houston Texans (9-5), the Tennessee Titans (8-6) didn’t get the job done.

An early 14-0 hole proved to be insurmountable. The Titans did tie the game in the second half, but a 10-0 run by Houston after that all but ended things.

“It was too little too late,” QB Ryan Tannehill said.

That was precisely the theme for the Titans in the game. If they manage to miss out on the playoffs, it will become the theme of their 2019 season.


The Titans started this season similarly to how they started Sunday’s game: by digging themselves a hole.

When Tannehill was finally given the chance to become the team’s starting QB in Week Seven, the Titans were 2-4 and had already dropped two games against divisional opponents.

Since then, Tannehill and the Titans have been pretty good. At times they’ve been really good, posting a 6-2 record over the last eight games.

Because of the slow start to the season, though, “really good at times” has put the Titans in a position where they don’t control their playoff fate. That honor now belongs, jointly, to the Bills, Ravens, Jets and Buccaneers.

Oh, and the Titans have to keep winning, too. They’ll travel to Houston to face this same Texans team in two weeks, and they play a challenging New Orleans Saints team on Sunday, December 22.


After Sunday’s game, head coach Mike Vrabel was not in a mood to discuss the scenarios that would have to occur for his team to make the playoffs.

“I don’t know what that scenario is, I don’t focus on that,” he said. “I try to focus on winning games, which we didn’t do today.”

“That’s what my focus is, it’s not trying to determine what the scenario is or who we’re rooting for. We need to all be rooting for the Titans.”

Here’s the problem with that, though: Vrabel and the entire Titans team are now in a position where they’re being forced to root for certain teams and outcomes that they can’t control.

Vrabel’s sentiment is correct in that, if the Titans lose either of their next two games, then what other teams do likely won’t matter.

But the luxury of exclusively being able to focus on “controlling what you can control” is a reward for those teams that, early on, put themselves in a position to control how they finish the season.


The Titans had one final shot at putting themselves in that position against the Texans on Sunday, but they blew it with a slow start, a poor running game and a leaky defense.

“That’s the thing, you know, you really can’t start slow on a good team,” DL Jeffery Simmons said.

“You’ve got to come out lights out, especially against a team with a running quarterback and good receivers.”

If the Titans hadn’t gotten the season off to such a lousy start in 2019, then Sunday’s game wouldn’t have born near the amount of importance that it actually did.

Instead, the team has been playing catchup for over half of the season, and Sunday’s game was crucial.

Though not in their hands, the Titans’ playoff hopes are certainly still very real.

But if they don’t come to fruition, the 2019 Titans season will finish with two questions:

  1. What would’ve happened if the Titans’ season hadn’t gotten off to a slow, 2-4 start?
  2. What would’ve happened if that crucial game against Houston in Week 15 hadn’t gotten off to a slow, 14-0 start?

Cover image: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today
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