- The Tennessee Titans have clinched their second straight AFC South title by beating the Miami Dolphins 34-3.
- The Titans have won divisional titles in both of Ryan Tannehill’s full seasons as starting quarterback.
- The last time the Titans won back to back titles was in the early 1960’s as the AFL Houston Oilers.
The Tennessee Titans aren’t a flashy team but they’ve been getting the job done in recent years. With a 34-3 win over the Miami Dolphins earlier today, Tennessee moved to 11-5 on the season and clinched their second straight AFC South title. Tennessee has made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons and have finished 1st or 2nd in the AFC South in five of their last six seasons. Tennessee closed as a -3 point home favorite over Miami and covered the number with ease. The 37 combined points went ‘Under’ the posted total of 41.
Ryan Tannehill was once again very efficient and effective under center for Tennessee as they trounced his former team. Apropos for the low profile Titans, Tannehill’s numbers weren’t mind blowing but he got the job done in virtually mistake free fashion. Tannehill finished 13 of 18 for 120 yards throwing a pair of touchdowns with no interceptions. After the game, Tannehill emphasized that he’s focused on the opportunities he now has in a Titans uniform while displaying consummate class in remembering his time in Miami:
“Focusing on ourselves and what we have in front of us. I am thankful for my time in Miami. That was a special time of my life. I grew a lot there as a person and as a player.”
The most impressive thing about the Titans’ season could be their resilience and tenacity. There were plenty of sports media types quick to write them off after Week 8 despite a 6-2 record. That was the week that they lost Derrick Henry–arguably the best running back in the NFL–to a fractured foot. The Titans didn’t get the memo that their season was over due to Henry’s injury and went 5-3 the rest of the way. They received contributions from a number of players with D’Onta Foreman stepping up as the Titans’ top running back. Foreman has rushed for 365 yards since Henry went out and had a big game on Sunday putting up 132 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown. After the game, Foreman said that he’s just trying to play his game and help the team–not worry about being Derrick Henry 2.0:
“My approach was not to try to fill big shoes. Just go out there and play my game, do what I can do to help the team. Derrick is a great running back. I think he’s the best back in the league. To be able to come in and try to help this team fill in where he left off was a challenge. I’m a competitor and never wanted anybody to look at me like I couldn’t get the job done.”
Henry’s season ending fractured foot was certainly the most significant injury the Titans faced this year but it was far from the only injury. Tennessee used 88 different players on their game day roster this season–a NFL record. They entered their Week 13 bye off of back to back losses to Houston and New England but rebounded nicely going 3-1 since. They’ve also held their opponents to 20 or fewer points in every game since their break.
Even though the Titans have clinched the AFC South their Week 17 road game against the lowly 4-11 Houston Texans is far from ‘meaningless’. A win over the Texans will give Tennessee the top seed in the AFC and a first round bye. Safety Kevin Byard says that he’s happy that his team is in a position to take care of their own business:
“It’s good to go into next week knowing that we don’t have to worry about nobody. We don’t have to worry about if somebody loses or anything like that. If we go out there and handle business against Houston we’ll have the one seed. Usually the last game of the year we’re fighting for something anyway so it’s good to the last week of the season fighting to be the No. 1 seed.”
The Texans were completely ineffective on Sunday as they lost 23-7 at San Francisco. Tennessee is well aware that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll roll over when they face Houston next week. The Texans beat the Titans 22-13 on November 21 as +10 road underdogs in what is one of the biggest upsets of the NFL season.