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Tennessee Titans, Mike Vrabel Persevere in 2019

 

Tennessee TitansNashville, TN – Following an impressive 43-13 win at the Cleveland Browns in the season opener, the Tennessee Titans lost four of their next five contests, including a shutout at the Denver Broncos on October 13th. At 2-4, there was little indication that the Titans would be playing well into January.

With a home date against the Los Angeles Chargers next on the schedule, Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel made the decision to insert eighth-year veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill into the starting lineup for the first time since he arrived in Tennessee.

Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

The players responded, narrowly defeating the Chargers 23-20 in a game that came down to a last-minute goal-line stand. Tannehill passed for 312 yards and two touchdowns.

Including the win over the Chargers, Tennessee earned six victories in a seven-game stretch, perhaps none more memorable than a 35-32 edging of the Kansas City Chiefs on November 10th.

In one of the most thrilling finishes in Nissan Stadium history, Tannehill completed a game-winning 23-yard touchdown pass to Adam Humphries, and the outcome was preserved by Joshua Kalu’s block of Harrison Butker’s 52-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

With three games remaining in the regular season, the Tennessee Titans hosted the Houston Texans on December 15th in a battle for first place in the AFC South. Running back Derrick Henry had just recorded his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance but was limited during the practice week with a hamstring injury. The Texans took advantage, keeping Henry under the 100-yard mark (86) and winning 24-21 to provide Houston the momentum it needed to secure the division title.

Two weeks later, it was Houston’s turn to host the Titans. With the Tennessee Titans a win away from Vrabel’s first playoff berth as a head coach, Henry provided a signature 211-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance on his way to the league rushing title, and rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown added 124 yards and a score. The Titans prevailed 35-14 and claimed the AFC’s final playoff seed.

With a win four weeks earlier at Indianapolis, it marked the first time since 2007 that the Titans went on the road and defeated the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston exans in the same season.

In the wild card round, the Titans vanquished Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the third-seeded New England Patriots by a final score of 20-13. Henry rushed for 182 yards, and the Titans defense shut out the Patriots in the second half. Cornerback Logan Ryan provided the exclamation point with a nine yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

The following week, the Titans were tasked with going into Baltimore to clash with the 14-2 Ravens in the divisional round. Seemingly unfazed, they never trailed after scoring the game’s first 14 points, pulling away 28-12 to clinch a spot in the AFC title game.

Henry rushed for 195 yards, while Baltimore’s league MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson was victimized by the Titans defense for three takeaways.

Only the Kansas City Chiefs stood in the way of the Titans’ first trip to the Super Bowl in 20 years. The Titans took the initial matchup two months earlier, but this time they would have to win at Arrowhead Stadium. It began encouragingly, as they grabbed first-half leads of 10-0 and 17-7.

But spearheaded by the play of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs stormed back to take the lead late in the second quarter and ultimately spoiled the Titans’ quest by a 35-24 margin.


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