Reflecting on the Tennessee Titans historic 2021 season

Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean)
Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean) /

The Tennessee Titans have earned the right to host their opponents throughout the AFC in the playoffs.

That was the reward for a 12-5 season that went down to the final minutes of the 18th game where the Titans stopped a comeback from the Houston Texans on the road. That win clinched the AFC’s 1-seed for the third time in franchise history.

Now the Titans get to rest up and get mentally ready for whoever their opponent will be on either January 22nd or 23rd. Due to the NFL’s new playoff format, the 1-seed will be much more valuable in years going forward as there is only one team from each conference that gets a bye week (changed from the past where the top two seeds would get a bye).

Obtaining the top seed helps the Tennessee Titans tremendously not only with preparation but by giving Derrick Henry two more weeks to heal from a foot injury suffered during a win against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10.

That Jones Fracture injury required surgery was estimated for a 6–10-week recovery time; the extra bye week means that he will have been able to rest for more than 11 weeks heading into the AFC Divisional round.

Injuries have plagued the team this season, but they are finally at a turning point health-wise and should be largely at full strength for their first playoff game. The Titans should consider this an accomplishment with the fact that the Titans have used 91 players this season on their active rosters’ week in and week out, an all-time NFL record.

How the Tennessee Titans got here

The Titans’ regular season started off shaky, going 2-2 with a bad loss to the Cardinals in their home and regular season-opener, and a very disappointing overtime loss to the Jets in Week 4.

After that disappointing start, the Titans were suddenly red-hot and went on to win their next 6 games, beating teams the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, and L.A. Rams among others.

Unfortunately, in the middle of that stretch, the Titans started losing key players like Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, David Long, and Julio Jones for months (not weeks).

What happened next was key because this is when the Tennessee Titans found their identity as a team that won on the backs of an entirely revamped defense that struggled immensely the year before.

The Titans defense is vastly improved in 2021 and a lot of that is due to the job that Shane Bowen has done and the incredible moves by Jon Robinson this offseason, including bringing in Denico Autry and Bud Dupree.

The pass rush, or lack thereof, of 2020’s group allowed opposing quarterbacks to garner plenty of time to carve up the Titans secondary. they were a very exposable weakness for the Titans.

In 2021, the defense finished the regular season ranked 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, and collected 43 sacks, more than doubling their total from 2020 (19).

The improvements the Titans have made and the adversity they have overcome this season showcase the greatness of their head coach. Mike Vrabel is a top candidate for Coach of the Year because of the Titans’ high team morale and resiliency to seize the AFC’s number one seed despite the countless injuries the Titans have faced.

Mike Vrabel always seems to block any kind of noise aside. Whether it be praise or the lack of media attention the Titans have received this season, this team always finds ways to win and now this team can benefit from a week off before they begin their playoff run in hopes of winning their first Super Bowl in franchise history.