NASHVILLE – The exact moment when Ryan Tannehill's career headed back in the right direction wasn't anything special.
It happened in Denver, on October 13 of last year, with 4:56 remaining in the third quarter of the team's eventual loss to the Broncos. The Titans were trailing 13-0 at the time, and starting quarterback Marcus Mariota was struggling.
The Titans, looking for a spark, turned to Tannehill.
"Honestly I don't remember any specific wording or anything like that," Tannehill recalled this week. "I think back – (OC) Arthur (Smith) just said, 'Let's go.' He probably said something else, but I just remember like, 'All right, let's go play football, do what I love doing and let it rip."
Tannehill's first pass was a five-yard completion to receiver Corey Davis. His next throw was a 42-yard completion to receiver A.J. Brown, but that one was called back because of a penalty. Tannehill ended up completing 13-of-16 passes for 144 yards with no touchdowns in that contest, with an interception.
And while his performance in the contest, an eventual 16-0 loss, certainly wasn't anything memorable, it was the start of a memorable season for the Titans, and a turnaround for Tannehill, who was acquired to be the back-up after a long run as the starter with the Dolphins.
The Titans named Tannehill the team's starting quarterback the following week, and it set some special things in motion.
Tannehill was named AP Comeback Player of the Year following last season, when he played in his first Pro Bowl. Tannehill led the NFL with a 117.5 rating in 2019, and he guided the Titans to a pair of playoff wins – at New England and Baltimore – and into the AFC Championship Game, where the Titans lost to the Chiefs.
During the regular season, Tannehill threw for 2,742 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions while guided the Titans to a 9-4 mark, including playoffs, after taking over as the team's starter in Week 7. With Mariota at the helm, the Titans started last season with a 2-4 mark.
Tannehill was rewarded with a lucrative new contract during the offseason.
On Monday night, Tannehill returns to Empower High at Mile High as the Titans kick off the 2020 season.
The memory of last year's game has almost faded.
"It does feel like a long time ago -- it was a long time ago. And in that regard, what happened last year has no effect on what happens this year," he said.
"We've definitely discussed our performance last year. We watched the tape again going back and preparing for this game. Definitely doesn't feel good to go back and see our performance last year. Got to give credit to them, they did a heck of a job of crowding us, of containing us, and we just didn't execute good enough. It's going to be a challenge this year, is to go out and play our type of football and execute consistently throughout the game."
As he prepared for the return trip, once again, Tannehill said he hopes it's the start of something special.
But he's taking nothing for granted at the start of a new season.
"I believe in our guys. I believe in our program," Tannehill said. "What we did last year really means nothing at this point, we have to go out and play good football. It doesn't just happen overnight, we're going to have to go out and start the season off right, execute, play with the fundamentals and details, and play harder than everyone else on the field. That's something that we've preached from day one but talking about it really doesn't do anything. We have to go out and actually do it.
"I'm thinking about it one week at a time. How do I win one game? How do we as a team go out and find a way to execute, and walk away from Denver with a win? So, if we're able to do that we'll be in good shape, won't have to worry about what's happening down the line if we're able to take it week by week and stack wins together."
A look back at QB Ryan Tannehill's 2019 Pro Bowl season that saw him complete 201-of-286 passes (70.3%) for 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns, and an NFL-leading 117.5 passer rating. (Photos: Donald Page).