MINNEAPOLIS — The latest of the Tennessee Titans‘ three wins in 2020 was just like the first two in that it didn’t come easily.

The Titans beat the Vikings on Sunday despite a particularly dismal performance from the team’s run defense, which allowed Vikings RB Dalvin Cook to average 8.2 yards per carry en route to a 181 yard-performance—the latest example of the Titans winning even with a poor performance from at least one component of the team.

In Week One, it was kicker Stephen Gostkowski who struggled mightily. Week Two saw the Titans’ pass coverage get abused by the Jaguars.

Yet, it’s not time to be alarmed about the 2020 Titans, because, even though their wins haven’t been easy or pretty in the least, they’re an impressive team. They have the ability to find ways to come through with wins late in games, the importance of which cannot be overstated.

“We would love to sit here and play blowouts and win them, but that’s not the reality of it,” head coach Mike Vrabel said.

SOME THINGS TO FIX

While fans shouldn’t be alarmed about the Titans’ start to the 2020 season, there is plenty of room for critique.

The team followed the same formula in each of its three season-opening wins: play poorly on at least one side of the ball, take advantage of the opponent’s mistakes and let Gostkowski hit a game-winner.

That’s not a sustainable method of winning, and the Titans know that.

“We want to be able to flip this thing on and be able to shut guys out,” linebacker Rashaan Evans said.

It’s going to take a lot of improvement for that to happen for the Titans, though, especially on defense.

In addition to the problems the defense had on Sunday handling Cook, who seemed to muster massive, chunk gains at will, the Titans struggled to cover rookie WR Justin Jefferson.

Jefferson abused the Titans secondary, catching seven passes for 171 yards. His day was highlighted by a 71-yard touchdown on which he brutally beat CB Johnathan Joseph down the field.

“WE’RE FORTUNATE”

And, while the defense was the Titans’ biggest problem against the Vikings, the offense made its share of mistakes, too.

QB Ryan Tannehill threw an interception on the first play of the second quarter and nearly threw another as the Titans mounted their game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

The entire Titans offense was collapse-prone throughout the day whenever it entered Vikings territory, which is why Gostkowski had to kick six field goals.

“It was a tight game, but it really shouldn’t have been so tight,” Tannehill said.

“We’re fortunate to come out of this one with a win when we weren’t able to score touchdowns. That will be an emphasis moving forward.”

“THIS TEAM IS EXCITED”


Still, the Titans deserve praise, not scorn, for their start to the 2020 season.

Winning games in the NFL isn’t easy, yet the Titans have made a habit of it despite difficult circumstances.

The team doesn’t quit and comes through when it matters most, an ability that, often, matters far more than looking pretty.

“It’s very encouraging to be a part of a football team that’s not a bunch of front runners who pack up, complain and start pointing fingers when things don’t go right,” Vrabel said.

This routine of making games closer than they need to be only to come through in the end likely will come back to bite the Titans if they keep it up.

For now, though, this is a team that should be generally pleased with its start to the season.

“This team is excited. We know we have to play better and continue to improve, but they know how to find ways to win right now,” Vrabel said.

“That’s a testament to them.”

Cover image: Jeffrey Becker / USA Today


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