The final score of 30-20 did not reflect the ass kicking the Titans received from the Panthers on Sunday. A defense that had been playing quality football all season long was suddenly at its most vulnerable, and as such an offense that—for the most part—had been struggling in 2019 could not put points up until it was far too late.
Finding optimism from this beating is difficult. This was a performance to forget from Ryan Tannehill, and the coaching decisions from Mike Vrabel and play calls from Arthur Smith once again left a lot to be desired. Combined with a run defense that was treated like roadkill and the recipe for disaster was cooked medium well.
Reaching for metaphors aside, there was one Titan that stood out in a big way, and that happened to be second-year pass rusher Harold Landry. Slowly but surely, Landry’s been quietly piecing together a quality season, as he leads the Titans in sacks (6), tackles for loss (9) and only trails Cameron Wake in QB hits (9 to 7 respectfully. Ugh....those numbers...).
On Sunday, Landry put another quarterback on the Honor Roll—this time Kyle Allen—and on the day had 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 2 tackles for loss, and an interception. It was a big statistical performance that actually looks better on tape. To explain why, let’s get right to Landry’s film breakdown.
First let’s take a look at this jet sweep turned reverse play from the Panthers offense. With the speed Carolina has with its skill players you might’ve expected this play call to work, just not on Landry’s time.
If Landry isn’t there to slow Jarius Wright down this likely goes for a first down and a lot more. But the edge rusher’s defensive smarts prove to be too much for the Panthers to handle, and Adoree Jackson finishes the job by tackling Wright well behind the line of scrimmage.
We don’t need to travel further for Landry’s interception, as it came and went on the very next play.
This is more luck based than skilled, though I guess a certain degree of skill is needed to make this diving interception. Anyways, Landry was in the right place at the right time, as the erratic pass from Kyle Allen was tipped in the air and right into his mitts.
Later, Allen was taken to school and put on the Honor Roll as its latest victim.
This was actually a coverage sack, so yeah it’s definitely not one of Landry’s more impressive moments, but it’s better to get a sack than get none at all, so I can’t take that away from him. The sack also halted Carolina’s drive, forcing them to settle for three points on a 4th and eternity.
You may think this was it from Landry from a pass rushing perspective, but there’s more to his performance that the box score stats confiscate. Take a look at the play below to see what I mean.
Is is frustrating that the Titans couldn’t get more than three sacks on Allen? Absolutely, but Landry’s contributions don’t come from a lack of effort. He’s so close and yet so far from getting a hit or a sack, but he certainly puts the heat on Allen and applies the pressure.
The Panthers offensive line eventually recognized the emerging inconvenience Landry was providing, illustrated by the snap below.
Somehow the left guard—Greg Van Roten—is able to see Landry attempt to make his way around the left tackle—Dennis Daley—and comes to Daley’s assistance. Landry’s wipe move allows him to get outside leverage, but Van Roten as a roadblock prevents him from dishing a hit on Allen.
The frustration only continues; Landry was constantly winning one on one matchups on the edge and was supplying plenty of pressure. But the ball kept getting out of Allen’s hands in a flash, so his stats weren’t as great as they could have been.
Landry wins his pass rushing rep against Daley again, but a subtle bump from the left tackle disrupts Landry’s bend, so he’s sent a little off course and can’t get to Allen in time. But this is definitely a shortcoming we can chalk up to bad luck, as Landry should have had a sack or a hit here.
Attention continued to be paid toward Landry, yet he continued to bring the pressure.
This is a long stunt to say the least, and Landry has to travel far just to even get in the same plane as Allen. If Allen held onto this pass just a little bit longer he could’ve been on the Honor Roll a second time, but alas, the quick passing scheme from Carolina won the battle and the war here.
We do get a somewhat happy ending on the next play, as Landry manages to get one last stat on his box score.
Though this isn’t a flashy play, Landry goes after Allen on the QB bootleg. As the Titans trailed by 10 points with a little under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Landry’s presence forced Allen to slide well short of the first down, giving Tennessee a slim chance of a comeback (We all know how that turned out...)
Unlike the rest of the team, Harold Landry came to play at Charlotte. Though he’s not at the preferred level you’d expect from premiere pass rushers like Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa, and Von Miller, he’s grown in his second season, putting more techniques into his pass rushing arsenal such as wipe and rip counter moves. His performance was far better than even his box score statistics give him credit for, and this was a game where he had a sack, a run stop, and an interception!
This was the team’s worst defensive performance by far, but that by no means should be blamed on Landry. As the season progresses he’s only gotten better and better, and that means he’s getting closer and closer to meeting his potential straight in the eyes. I’m eager to see what he can do for the rest of 2019, and I suggest Titans fans do the same, if only to find some much needed joy in a roller coaster season.