Ryan Tannehill is the man who saved the Titans regular season, but Tennessee will need more from their quarterback to make a postseason run.
The Titans turned their season around by turning to Ryan Tannehill under center. It’s fair to say he’s the biggest reason why Tennessee managed to squeak into the playoffs. It’s also fair to point out that the Titans will need even more from Tannehill in the postseason if they want to transform into a legitimate Super Bowl threat.
Tannehill deserves a ton of credit for taking over for Marcus Mariota and leading his team to a 6-3 record in his nine starts on the season. The 31-year-old did an excellent job of working within the confines of Tennessee’s offense to serve as a quality compliment to Derrick Henry and the run game.
What he didn’t do was really push the ball down the field at an elite level. He averaged a respectable 9.6 yards per pass attempt, but he really benefited from big plays from his wide receivers after the catch. The emergence of A.J. Brown as a bona fide star was particularly helpful.. He turned several short throws from Tannehill into highlight reel touchdowns for the Titans down the stretch.
When the Titans enter the postseason they will travel to Foxborough to take on a defense constructed by Bill Belichick. New England hasn’t played great football as of late, but just a few weeks ago there was a legitimate debate over whether or not the 2019 edition of the Patriots’ defence was Belichick’s best ever group. They will absolutely present Tannehill with his biggest challenge of the campaign.
To win, the Titans will need to help their quarterback find the right balance between expanding his game and trying to do too much. Efficiency will still be a crucial part of Tannehill’s game. Maintaining a touchdown to interception ratio close to his regular season average of 20:6 will be essential.. Turnovers will doom any chance the Titans have of emerging as victors in New England.
On the other hand, the Titans can’t win this game by counting on Henry to bludgeon the Patriots front to death. The physical running back will need to have a productive day, but Tannehill will have to take advantage of the chances he gets to make big throws down the field. Tennessee can’t dink and dunk their way to victory in Foxborough.
It’s unclear whether or not Tannehill is capable of conjuring up that kind of big performance when the stakes are at their highest. He was a victim of a healthy amount of dysfunction during his time with the Dolphins, but he also didn’t have the requisite talent to overcome the shortcomings around him. The term “system quarterback” is a bit of a dirty word in today’s NFL, but it’s a moniker that describes Tannehill to perfection.
Fortunately for the Titans, the playoffs have the ability to coax exceptional performance from average players upon occasion. That’s what Tennessee needs to happen to Tannehill against New England. Anything less will equal an early postseason exit for the Titans.