Another First Round Exit

It has been quite a while since I’ve last posed anything. After the divisional round game between our Titans and the Bengals it was very tough. I wanted to write about this so much sooner but I needed time to get over the loss and before you know it work got in the way and here I am writing about this game almost three months since this game was played.

Despite the season being over now and everyone is looking forward towards the draft and next season I want to review that divisional round game. There are going to be lots of things I discuss in this forum and I’m sure everyone will have their own opinions on many things that aren’t discussed as well.

First things first, I got to talk about Ryan Tannehill. Let me preface this by saying that although Ryan had a poor season statistically I commend his efforts throughout the season. He was dealt a very bad hand with his top two receivers being constantly in and out of the lineup, losing his bell-cow running back for half of the season, and had no viable tight end option ever throughout the season. On top of all of this he was constantly getting beat up due to inconsistent offensive line play and was also handicapped to a sub-par offensive coordinator but played hard throughout the season.

However, Ryan’s performance in the divisional round was unacceptable. In this game he had Derrick Henry, AJ Brown and Julio Jones available to him and the Titans still lost. The first play of the game Ryan threw an interception. Luckily our defense was able to hold the Bengals to a field goal but nonetheless, that was 3 free points gifted to the Bengals by Ryan. This was a horrible start to the game. Ryan’s second interception came on a goal-line quick pass to the right that was tipped and intercepted that thwarted any momentum for the Titans at that point of the game. Ryan’s last interception of the game sealed the deal and allowed the Bengals to play in the AFC championships the next week. In this game Ryan’s three picks were all costly and were a big reason why the Titans lost this game. Ryan’s future as this team’s QB will be a topic of discussion but for another time. You can blame Todd Downing or Tannehill but the bottom line is the offensive performance in that game was an embarrassment.

Speaking of Todd Downing, the offensive performance and play calling was a joke in this game. With a healthy Derrick Henry, AJ Brown, and Julio Jones, to not have a legitimate game plan speaks volume about Downing’s inability to game plan and call plays accordingly. I don’t know how you have your full arsenal of weapons at your disposal and put out the performance that we saw.

Mike Vrabel also needs to be held accountable. This team was clearly not ready and they played from behind and with no real concern throughout a majority of the game. But, the thing I’m most interested in is Derrick Henry. Derrick did not look like his old self. There was one distinct play where Derrick cut back from left to right and there was nothing but green grass and a defensive back in his way. When I saw this play in real time I got excited because we’ve all seen Derrick in this situation before and he would bully the DB out of the way before galloping away for a potentially big play. However, this didn’t play out the way us Titans fans are used. What actually happened looked like Derrick slipped and tumble towards the ground and one lucky DB fell on top of him and fortunately avoided being a highlight reel for Derrick Henry. This play told me all I needed to know. Now expecting Derrick to come back and pick up where he left off is not only foolish but unrealistic to think about. This is neither Vrabel nor Derrick’s fault as being out for 2 months it will take any player some time to get back into proper shape. Before the divisional game I did question whether or not Vrabel should let Derrick play in week 18 to at least get some rust off before the playoffs. Ultimately Vrabel chose to rest Derrick. Nobody will ever know for sure if playing Derrick in week 18 would have helped Derrick or not but it is something that we can all ponder on.

The defense was the real victim of this game. After sacking Joe Burrow a record 9 times and still losing this game stings. Not only did the defense sack Burrow 9 times but they held that explosive offense the entire game. Aside from one explosive long play from Ja’Marr Chase this offense was kept mostly in check. The Bengals offense had one offensive touchdown allowed this entire game. What an impressive job this Titans defense did but ultimately it was not enough due to the poor outing the offense put out.

It is a real shame that that game was how this Titans team season ended. Consider how the Titans lost Derrick Henry for half of the season, battled more injuries than any team in NFL history and still wrapped up the number one seed was astonishing. However, when the time came for this team to be completely healthy and make that playoff push it all fell apart. Everything was set up beautifully for the Titans to make a deep playoff run and it was squandered. I’m really starting to question the superbowl window for this team now, a topic that will be discussed another time.