Titans hold off Houston 28-25 to finish (12-5) and win the top seed in the AFC.
1. Top Seed – Yep, it’s good to be number one, especially this year when it is so wide open. Advancing to round two is huge. The Titans are now 2 home victories away from the Super Bowl and they get a third extended rest since December. Normally I would worry about a team losing momentum or their “edge” but not this team with this coach because the Titans are 8-0 under Mike Vrabel when they get extended rest.
2. Coach of the Year – OK, the Titans earned the top seed and did not only without Derrick Henry the last 9 games but using 91 players. AJ Brown missed games, Julio Jones missed games, Bud Dupree missed games, Denico Autry missed games… Remember when Adrian Peterson was on this team? Mike Vrabel did not just hold it together, he won. The Titans beat good teams despite being without some of their best players. If he is not the Coach of the Year they need to dump the award.
3. 1-2 punch – How nice was it to see AJ Brown and Julio Jones BOTH on the field and producing for the Titans. Brown had 4 catches for 68 yards and a TD. Jones had 5 catches for 58 yards and his first TD as a Titan. Seeing Ryan Tannehill have confidence in Julio and going to him in critical situations has big ramifications headed into the post season.
4. He’s Back! – It took almost as long as Julio Jones but Anthony Firkser is a part of the Titans offense again! I have to think having Brown healthy and on the field has helped open up some gaps for him. Today he scored for the second week in a row, but I was more impressed with his toughness. He caught a couple of third down passes for first downs knowing he was going to get drilled, but he caught the ball, took cover and moved the chains. 4 catches for 56 yards and a score for Firkser Sunday, that’s the performance this team needs.
5. Go for the Throat! – I loved the aggressiveness of Mike Vrabel’s timeout just before halftime to get the Titans the ball back with 44 seconds to play. Ryan Tannehill rewarded him with a 4 yard TD to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. That looked like it should have been the game, it wasn’t, but should have been. It sent a couple of messages. He believed in his team and did not believe in sitting by and playing it safe.
6. Defensive Collapse – The Titans defense completely dominated the Texans the first half and I have to say I did NOT see that second half collapse coming. I’m still shocked. I mean, Danny Amendola, it’s almost comical. I guess the bottom line is Davis Mills has some ability and you have to get to him. Still how is it that Amendola was able to beat the entire Titans secondary when they shut down the likes of DK Metkalf, George Kittle, Jaylen Waddle, Stefan Diggs and not cover Amendola.
7. 4-Minute Offense – We have seen this Titans defense slam the door on teams this year, but not today. They left it WIDE open!!! It was nice to see the offense have their back and slam it shut for them. They got the ball up 28-25 with exactly 4 minutes to play and never let the Texans touch the ball again. They converted three first downs. The first came when they came out throwing on first down and Tannehill hit AJ Brown for 14 yards. That was a gutsy play call, but the kind that is required to win. You have to let your best players make plays and win you the game. Then there was Dontrell Hilliard stretching out to convert a crucial 3rd and 2 and finishing off the Texans with his next run off 11 yards where he moved the chains and stayed in bounds.
8. Tanne-Thrill – OK this was Ryan Tannehill’s day. The Titans offense took over when they put the game in his hands and let him start throwing it, especially on 1st down. He finished 23-32 for 287 yards 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions exorcising the demons of that 4 turnover performance in Nashville. I often bring up that Tannehill needs to show he can elevate the team, he can carry the team when they need him. They needed him today and he carried them to victory.
9. Play of the Year – No, I did not forget his play of the year. 3rd and 5 and the Titans were leaking oil with their lead down to 21-18 and he spins out of a sack for a 36 yard throw to NWI. It was a spectacular play and what I loved was how he kept his head up looking for targets and NWI did not give up on the play.
10. C’mon Man! – The Titans waive Jeremy McNichols and elevate Jordan Wilkins only to have him get a terrible personal foul on special teams. I know he wants to make a play, but don’t do dumb stuff to hurt the team. Have you heard that one before?
11. Need the Rest – Yes, the Titans have largely regained their health in the last month but Amani Hooker and Kristian Fulton both got dinged at the end of this one, giving them and everyone else an extra week will not hurt.
12. Return of the King – And yes, now the Titans give Derrick Henry 2 more weeks on the practice field before he returns for the playoffs. We don’t know who the Titans will play. We only know it will not be the Chiefs or Bills and it will be at Nissan Stadium.
13. Nice Run – This is the Titans 4th trip to the playoffs in 5 years. Remember 3-13 and 2-14, it’s almost hard to believe that was just 7-8 years ago. 6 straight winning seasons, 4 playoff births, now the top seed, this thing has been trending in the right direction for a while.
14. Super Bowl – The Titans are 2 wins from the Super Bowl. I believe in this team. They are tough, they can take a punch, they do not panic and I will say something I have never said before this year, I think they will do it.