Entering the 2019 NFL season, very few prognosticators figured the Tennessee Titans would be playing in their fifth AFC Championship Game in franchise history.
After a successful five-year run from 1999-2003, where they appeared in two AFC Championship Games and Super Bowl XXXIV, they fell on hard times. Only three times in the previous 17 seasons has the franchise reached the postseason, winning just one game.
After a dominant 43-13 victory at Cleveland to start the season, Tennessee fell flat, losing four of their next five games. Their offense was non-existent in those losses, totaling just 31 points.
The Titans decided to replace franchise QB Marcus Mariota with Ryan Tannehill, who was once viewed the same way as a member of the Miami Dolphins. However, injuries and inconsistency ended his tenure leaving many to doubt his ability to lead a consistent, productive offense.
Tannehill’s presence ignited the Titans stagnant offense in consecutive wins against the Chargers & Buccaneers (completed just under 71 percent of his passes while throwing for 505 yards, 5 TD, and 1 INT). However, a loss to the Panthers dropped their record under 500 again at 4-5. While Tannehill’s calm demeanor helped provide direction, something else was missing.
Enter Derrick Henry.
|Derrick Henry Rushing Numbers|
|Last 8 Games (Includes Postseason)|
|Rushing Totals (Last 8 Games)|
|Yards Per Game||159.1|
|Yards Per Carry||6.3|
|>> 588 yards, 6.1 YPC, 196.0 YPG, 4 TD in last 3 games|
Tennessee won their next four games behind Henry’s running, as he averaged 149.8 YPG and 6.7 YPC. A sore left hamstring saw Henry post only 86 rushing yards in a loss to the Texans and miss their 38-28 loss at New Orleans.
Facing a win and in scenario against division rival Houston (who had already clinched the AFC South), Henry returned with a vengeance. His 211 rushing yards helped him become the first Heisman Trophy winner since Barry Sanders in 1997 to win the NFL rushing title, while also clinching the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC for the Titans.
As the Titans prepare to take on the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, Henry is enjoying a historic playoff run (literally). He set an NFL record on Saturday in defeating the AFC #1 seed Baltimore Ravens 28-12, posting his third straight game with at least 180 rushing yards. That followed his 182-yard performance that ended the Patriots run of eight consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances.
|QB Throwing for under 100 Yds, Consecutive Playoff Wins|
|NFL Playoffs, Super Bowl Era|
|2019 Ryan Tannehill, TEN||72 at Patriots||88 at Ravens|
|1974 Terry Bradshaw, PIT||95 at Raiders||96 vs Vikings|
After finishing the regular season averaging 228.5 passing yards per game with 22 TD and just 6 INT during the regular season, Tannehill has played a different role in the postseason. In both the Titans postseason wins, Tannehill has thrown for under 100 yards (72 at Patriots, 88 at Ravens). He is only the second QB in NFL playoff history to win consecutive playoff games without throwing for 100 yards in either game (Terry Bradshaw threw for 95 & 96 yards in wins over the Raiders & Vikings).
While Tannehill’s run at NFL playoff history could not happen without help from his teammates, perhaps its overall meaning can be seen in another example. The only other QB in franchise history to throw for under 100 yards and win a postseason game was Steve McNair. McNair finished 13-24 for 76 yards in the Titans 22-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills in the 1999 AFC Wild Card Game. Most people refer to that game as the “Music City Miracle”, which Kevin Dyson returned a kickoff 75 yards for the game-winning TD after receiving a cross-field lateral from Frank Wycheck. Could the NFL world be witness to another Titans Super Bowl run featuring this rare feet by a QB?
If Tannehill and the Titans are able to defeat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, they will join the Dallas Cowboys as the only teams to feature two different QB leading their team to a Super Bowl in the same postseason they won a game throwing for under 100 yards.
On December 26, 1970 in the first ever NFC Divisional Round, Dallas Cowboys QB Craig Morton set NFL records by throwing for the fewest yards (38) and completing the fewest passes (4) in a postseason win. Morton and the Cowboys defeated the Lions 5-0 on their way to losing to the Colts in Super Bowl V. A year later, Roger Staubach threw for 99 yards while leading the Cowboys to a 20-12 win over the Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round. Dallas went on to win their first Super Bowl, defeating the Miami Dolphins 24-3 in Super Bowl VI.
|Fewest Regular Season Wins, Advanced To Super Bowl|
|W-L||Super Bowl Result|
|2011 New York Giants||9-7||Defeated Patriots 21-17|
|2008 Arizona Cardinals||9-7||Lost vs Steelers 27-23|
|1979 Los Angeles Rams||9-7||Loss vs Steelers 31-19|
|1967 Green Bay Packers||9-4-1||Defeated Raiders, 33-14|
|>>Tennessee Titans (9-7) at Kansas City in AFC Championship|
What will the Titans show the NFL against the Chiefs? If it’s anything like what we have seen so far, Tennessee might become just the fifth team to win nine regular-season games and advance to the Super Bowl.