Against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3, QB Ryan Tannehill once again led the Tennessee Titans offense to another fourth-quarter comeback, making it three weeks in a row. Tannehill has seven fourth-quarter comebacks, which is an NFL-high since he took over as starter last year in Week 7. The Titans have started 3-0 for the first time in 12 years. The last time they were 3-0, they were the #1 seed in the AFC.
If Tennessee has similar aspirations this year, the defense must drastically improve.
Defensive Woes Continue
The Titans’ defense was gashed on the ground for the second week in a row.
It was mentioned in the preview that Dalvin Cook had an opportunity to exploit Tennessee’s rushing defense. Cook was averaging 4.35 yards per carry entering Week 3, but had minimal touches due to the Vikings trailing early in the first two games of the season.
Last week, the Jaguars rushed for 165 rushing yards against the Titans. On Sunday, Cook finished the game with 185 yards and was averaging 8.2 yards per carry. The Vikings, as a team, ran for 238 rushing yards.
This is a major concern for the Tennessee Titans. Their last two opponents’ combined record is 0-6, yet they had tremendous success on the ground against the Titans defense. These low-grade performances against better opposition will not result in wins.
The secondary struggled once again without top corner Adoree’ Jackson. Vikings rookie receiver Justin Jefferson had a field day against the Titans cornerbacks. Jefferson was constantly getting the best of Malcolm Butler and Johnathan Joseph. In the first half alone, Jefferson had six catches for 104 yards. Whether it was short or intermediate routes, none of the Titans cornerbacks could keep up with Jefferson. Although less effective in the second half, he did have a 71-yard touchdown. The Titans desperately need Adoree’ Jackson to be healthy, more so than A.J. Brown.
Despite giving up over 400 total yards, the Titans did create some crucial turnovers and plays to help them win the game. On the Vikings’ second drive, Dalvin Cook fumbled the ball, which led to the Titans capitalizing for three points. The defensive line was pivotal on the Vikings’ last drive, causing pressure on Kirk Cousins, which eventually led to the game-sealing interception. The Titans won the turnover margin again, and is one of the few strengths of the defense at the moment. If the offense keeps up their success and the defense can create enough turnovers, it will be enough the mask the amount of yards the Titans allow.
The Titans got off to a slow start on offense and were surprisingly inefficient in the red zone in the first half. Their first three red-zone trips resulted in two field goals and an interception. However, in the second half, Derrick Henry got going and the Titans mustered methodical drives that put the game to bed. Henry finished the day with 119 yards and two goal-line touchdowns.
Tannehill had his first sub-par performance of the season compared to his first two weeks. He posted a QBR rating of 49.8 which ranked 23rd among starting quarterbacks in Week 3. He also threw an interception in the red zone in the beginning of the second quarter. Nevertheless, he made crucial throws that would put the Titans in position to win the game. Late in the 3rd quarter, Tannehill connected with Kalif Raymond for a 61-yard completion which resulted in the Titans taking the lead.
In the end, the Titans offense simply ran more plays and had more opportunities to win the game than the Minnesota Vikings. Those turnovers were crucial and gave more opportunities for Tennessee to score.
That will be a theme for the rest of the season.
The Tennessee Titans’ defense is simply not talented enough to impose their will, yet we have seen they are able to create timely turnovers that propel them to victory. The Titans offense will carry the load this year; they just need the defense to continue to gift them more chances to score.
(Featured Image Credit: TennesseeTitans.com)