NASHVILLE – The Titans beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-23 on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the game as the team begins to turn its attention to the Carolina Panthers.
Jonnu Smith Stepping Up
When the Titans lost Delanie Walker to a season-ending injury a year ago, some of the team's other tight ends flashed in his absence. With Walker slowed the past two weeks with an ankle injury, Smith has stepped up in a hurry. Smith caught a team-high six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, a week after a three-catch, 64-yard performance against the Chargers. He's proven to be consistent, and reliable. Props should also go to tight end Anthony Firkser as well – he's also made a nice impact.
Love it or hate it, Titans coach Mike Vrabel's aggressiveness has been on full display the past two Sundays. Vrabel tried a fake field goal late on Sunday, a week after going for it with a QB sneak vs. the Chargers. Neither play worked, and some fans have expressed outrage even after the win. No one, however, should be surprised. Vrabel took a lot of chances in his first year as head coach as well. It's who he is, and he's showing no signs of changing.
Logan Ryan can no longer be called an underrated hero in the Titans defense, because he's making it impossible to fly under the radar. Ryan had a sack, six tackles, two quarterback hits, and the game-sealing interception in Sunday's win over the Buccaneers. Ryan's 7.5 sacks since the beginning of the 2018 season (he's second on the team this season with 3.5) are the most in the NFL among defensive backs. He's one of the team's best defensive players.
A week ago, it was rookie defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons who got most of the attention following his NFL debut. Well, Jurrell Casey reminded everyone on Sunday just how valuable he is in Tennessee's defense. It was Casey who made the fourth-and-one stop late, and it was Casey who helped make life tougher for Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston with two quarterback pressures and a sack.
The Titans gave up a bunch of yards on Sunday – the Buccaneers racked up 389 yards of total offense, including 301 passing yards from Winston. Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans had 198 receiving yards. But a big reason the Titans won on Sunday is because of all the turnovers. Defensive lineman Isaiah Mack set up a touchdown with a fumble recovery and cornerback Malcolm Butler set up a score with an interception. Harold Landry's sack and fumble recovery, and Ryan's late INT, gave the Titans four big takeways.
Red Zone Success
The Titans weren't as efficient throwing the football on Sunday as they were the previous week, but they got it done with it mattered most. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill engineered a 12-play, 90-yard drive at crunch time, capping it off with a touchdown pass to A.J. Brown. Against the Buccaneers, the Titans were 3-of-3 in the red zone, with Smith and Tajae Sharpe also catching TD passes. Under Tannehill, the Titans were also a perfect 3-for-3 in the red zone a week ago as well. In his first two starts, Tannehill has five touchdown passes vs. only one interception. The Titans are now 3rd in the NFL in red zone offense, up from 23rd a year ago.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8 of the 2019 season at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)