Titans’ passing assault could be turning nook. If it does, they’re contenders

The Tennessee Titans had an apparent Achilles’ Heel to their hopes of a deep playoff run. 

We have recognized what the Derrick Henry-led run sport can do. And we have recognized what the protection, led by an elite entrance seven, can do. However we have additionally recognized that the passing sport has struggled. The receiving manufacturing post-A.J. Brown has largely been abysmal. The expertise degree of their cross catchers has been a priority. The quarterback play hasn’t been nice (thanks partially to that poor receiver play). 

But when the Titans can discover a option to persistently get sufficient from their passing assault for the playoffs — which they’re on the quick monitor to qualifying for with a commanding lead within the AFC South — they might be a a lot larger risk within the postseason. 

We noticed a glimpse of that final week in opposition to an elite Broncos cross protection. And we noticed much more throughout prime time in frigid Inexperienced Bay. 

That is unhealthy information for the remainder of the AFC.

The Titans (7-3) scored a season-high 27 factors of their victory Thursday over the Packers (4-7) at Lambeau Discipline. It is largely due to their most efficient passing assault of the season. 

Their 320 internet passing yards marked a season excessive by a large margin (their earlier excessive on the yr was 266 in Week 1). Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was extremely environment friendly, finishing a season-high 81.5% of his passes — the second-highest fee of his 10-year profession — for 333 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. First-round rookie receiver Treylon Burks had his first profession 100-yard receiving sport: seven receptions on eight targets for 111 yards. 

And Tennessee’s offense wasn’t placing up robust passing numbers in opposition to a slouch of a cross protection, both. Inexperienced Bay entered the sport ranked third in passing yards allowed per sport and eleventh in passing yards allowed per play. 

The hope of workforce observers was that the return of Burks, who missed 4 video games with a turf toe damage, might make the Titans’ passing sport extra respectable. In his second sport again, he justified that perception. 

He sealed the sport Thursday on an aggressive play name by offensive coordinator Todd Downing: on first down, with the Titans holding a 27-17 lead with 2:04 left, Tannehill hit Burks deep downfield. The previous Arkansas star dragged standout cornerback Jaire Alexander, one of many NFL’s finest defensive backs, on his again for about 18 yards to cap the 51-yard pickup. Burks gave Alexander the “too small” gesture after the play. 

However that wasn’t his solely explosive play. On the Titans’ third play from scrimmage, Burks beat cornerback Keisean Nixon on a put up route for a 43-yard acquire. It helped arrange the Titans’ first landing of the sport. 

Three different Titans pass-catchers had receptions of a minimum of 30 yards. They got here within the third quarter: rookie tight finish Chig Okonkwo had a 31-yard catch, and Henry took a display cross 42 yards downfield to arrange Tennessee’s third landing. Veteran receiver Robert Woods had a 32-yard reception on the next possession. 

Henry surpassed 1,000 dashing yards for the season Thursday. He received some massive first downs briefly yardage conditions, however the Titans’ run sport was largely inefficient. The All-Professional working again gained his 87 dashing yards on simply 3.1 yards per carry. 

The Titans protection made a important fourth-and-1 cease with 2:12 left and held the Packers to 17 factors general, however accidents are persevering with to mount for the unit. Standout defensive lineman Denico Autry (knee) and beginning cornerback Kristian Fulton (hamstring) have been damage throughout the sport. A cross rush that had been so nice sacked Aaron Rodgers simply as soon as and hit him 3 times general. 

For various causes, the Titans’ run sport and protection weren’t at their finest. However they’ve finished so many good issues for this Tennessee workforce. Their monitor file suggests Thursday’s efficiency, one on a brief week, shall be extra of an outlier than a theme. They continue to be the spine of the Titans.

However in Inexperienced Bay, the passing sport got here alive. Once more. For a second straight week. 

When that comes along with the run sport and protection, the Titans seem like the most effective groups within the NFL — one with out an Achilles Heel. 

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand labored for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Community, the place he was the Titans beat author for a yr and a half. He coated the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for 3 seasons (2018-20) previous to shifting to Tennessee. You may observe Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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