There has been a lot of talk about Ryan Tannehill and the Titans passing game in the postseason – or rather the lack of passing from the Tennessee quarterback in the team’s two playoff wins.
In both games – a 20-13 win at New England and a 28-12 upset at Baltimore, Tannehill has thrown for less than 100 yards.
However, while he has only thrown 29 passes in two games leading up to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Titans quarterback has definitely made the most of it. He hit a 12-yard touchdown throw to Anthony Firkser for the Titans first score in Foxboro in the wild-card round and last week had TD throws to Jonnu Smith from 12 yards and Kalif Raymond from 45 yards to help Tennessee build an early 14-0 lead en route to the victory.
Those two early scores changed the complexion of the game completely with the Titans able to turn the game over the Derrick Henry, who ran for 195 yards against the Ravens, and it caused the Ravens to abandon their run-pass option game, turning Lamar Jackson into more of a dropback passer, which played right into the Titans’ strategy.
Henry is unquestionably leading the Titans charge with 30-plus carries each game and 377 yards in his two playoff contests. And Tannehill is fine with whatever formula produces a winning result.
“Well I mean, being a quarterback, obviously I love throwing the ball, but I just want to win. At the end of the day, that’s what we go out there each and every week is to find a way to win and do whatever it takes. So, if that’s throwing it 15 times and trying to execute those plays, that’s what I’ll do. If it’s 35, then that’s what it is,” Tannehill said.
Rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown, who was Tannehill’s main weapon in the passing game in the regular season with more than 1,000 yards receiving, has just one catch in each of the postseason wins. But that does not matter to the rookie whatsoever with the results the Titans have been getting.
“Derrick is doing his thing right now. He’s leading us. He got hot at the right time. I hope he continues to keep running hard and doing what he’s does and help the team out. If we throw the ball five times, and I get a zero, but we win, it doesn’t matter,” Brown said.
Tannehill’s success since taking over as the Titans starting quarterback 12 games ago has come in large part because he has not been afraid to put the ball into tight windows and ask his receivers to make a play. The TD pass to Smith that opened the scoring in Baltimore was the latest example of that.
“We’ve done it multiple ways throughout the season, and you don’t forget how to throw and catch and in two weeks. It’s something we still have a lot of confidence in, and I know our guys outside have a lot of confidence in themselves, and I have a lot of confidence in them being able to get open and get them the football,” he said.
In the regular season and playoffs combined, Tannehill now has 25 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. It also has helped that the offense has done so well in the red zone scoring touchdowns that Greg Joseph, signed four games ago to replace an injured Ryan Succop, still has yet to attempt a field goal as a Titan.
With Derrick Henry running roughshod for 182 and 195 yards, respectively, in the Titans two playoff wins, the passing game has been a complementary part of the offense. But an important one, especially in the red zone nonetheless.
“We talk about it every week is coming away with seven points when we’re
down there. We’ve done a good job, I think, throughout the year of executing plays, and then making
some off-schedule plays as well. So, there’s a lot of confidence that once we get down there, like I said,
that we’ll find a way to make a play;,” Tannehill said. “Sometimes it comes early in the set of downs, sometimes, like last week, it was late on third down, Jonnu (Smith) making a heck of a play in the corner of the end zone. So, you combine that with Derrick (Henry), obviously, running hard each and every play, there’s a lot of different weapons we can use.”
Wide receiver Adam Humphries, who has bene out since early December with an ankle injury, returned to practice in limited fashion. Linebacker Jayon Brown, who missed the Ravens game with a shoulder injury, was limited on Wednesday, as were linebacker Rashaan Evans (foot), cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (foot) and linebacker David Long (knee). Receiver Cody Hollister (ankle) was a full participant, while cornerback Logan Ryan was held out of practice Wednesday due to illness.