Credit has been given sparingly to a Tennessee Titans team that continues to defy the odds.
It’s not just that they are winning, but it is HOW they are winning and WHO they are defeating. That is the more telling story that is deeper than the hash marks in the win column.
The Titans have found their “why”. What is their why? C’mon - we all know the answer to that.
The Titans lead the AFC South and have collected two division wins against two teams many felt were at the top of the South.
The Texans were predicted to potentially win the south, or at least secure a wildcard spot because the return of QB Deshaun Watson - who was supposedly going to be in the league MVP race - would take Houston to the promise land.
Houston is 1-3.
The Jaguars were predicted to make a run to the Super Bowl. Many pegged them as the team to represent the AFC in Atlanta this season. After thwarting Tom Brady and the Patriots, some went ahead and penciled them in the football finale.
Jacksonville is 3-1.
But wait - let’s look at the Jaguars 3-1 record. They nearly lost the opener to a Giants team we now know isn’t good. They beat an Patriots team in September - a month New England tends to struggle in. Jacksonville beat the New York Jets last week - a team that lost to a Cleveland Browns team that hadn’t won since Christmas Eve of 2016.
The Titans defeated the Jaguars - in Jacksonville. Yet, some still have the Jaguars ahead of the Titans.
Context, people. Context.
The Titans (disastrous) opener in Miami should have derailed this team completely. Losing Delanie Walker, Marcus Mariota and Taylor Lewan in the same game - I mean, that’s a devastating blow to the locker room energy.
But - because of the new coaching staff - it wasn’t. The storm was weathered.
HC Mike Vrabel and his coaching staff prepared a roster depleted of talent at key spots to face a Watson-led Texans team. The last time Watson had played the Titans, Houston dropped 50 points.
The game plan was tailored to the available personnel and the Titans executed it to near perfection. In a game the team had to pull out all the stops - they did just that and it earned them their first division win of the season.
Jacksonville was slated to annihilate the Titans especially when Blaine Gabbert was listed to start his second consecutive game. Gabbert, who did a solid job against Houston, was knocked out and Mariota came in and completely took over. The win wasn’t pretty, but an ugly win is better than a pretty loss any day of the week.
Next up was the defending Super Bowl Champions - the Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz would start his second game of the season and the Eagles would secure a 17-3 lead deep into the third quarter.
Some called ball game. Some let the “same-old-Titans” feelings consume them. However, the coaching staff had the buy in from the players - and the players had the belief in each other - that this team was different. This team was built to overcome.
What. A. Finish.
It took five quarters, a handful of 4th down conversions, a little bit of luck and the confidence to overcome the adversity of the moment - but in the end, the Titans did the impossible.
Wins in that fashion tend to do things to the overall psyche of a football team.
Trap Game Looms
The Buffalo Bills - who have a deep-seeded hatred for the Titans because of the Music City Miracle - will be an interesting match up.
On paper, the Titans should destroy this team. However, so should Minnesota.
Which Bills team will show up in front of their home crowd? The team that dominated the Vikings or the team that was crucified in week one by the Ravens and crushed by Aaron Rodgers and the Pack in week four.
The Titans are in a tough spot and Vrabel will spend the time necessary during the week to ensure his team doesn’t go into Buffalo overconfident. If Vrabel is able to refocus the team on the task at hand, the Titans will be in a solid position in the AFC.
The Titans follow their road trip to Buffalo by hosting another contending AFC team in the Baltimore. A win against the Bills is crucial heading into the Baltimore game - a match up that will be littered with it’s own story lines.
But that’s two weeks away. The Titans must take care of business in Buffalo.
Vrabel will have the boys ready.