Why do the Tennessee Titans lose games against bad teams so often

Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tennessee Titans have had six-straight winning seasons with Jon Robinson as the GM and four-straight winning seasons since Mike Vrabel has been the HC, but they have a terrible habit.

Every fan who knows the team (or read the title of this article) knows what I am talking about. When you look back on all these winning seasons, there are total head-scratching losses.

In 2018 they lost to the 7-9 Miami Dolphins and the 6-10 Buffalo Bills. It was the 7-9 Denver Broncos 6-10 and the 5-11 Carolina Panthers in 2019. They lost to the 4-win Cincinnatti Bengals in 2020, and we all remember the losses to the New York Jets and Houston Texans last season.

Why does that keep happening? Why do the Tennessee Titans turn into complete failures against bad teams?

Well, Mike Keith was on the radio on Monday and he had an interesting quote that I think sums up exactly why the Titans keep losing these games.

The quote that explains half a decade of strange Tennessee Titans losses

In case you weren’t aware, the Tennessee Titans ran the ball on first down more than almost any other team and 19 of Derrick Henry’s 21 runs came on first down. At the same time, Ryan Tannehill was the most effective quarterback in the league on first-down passes last week, and the offense continued to choose to ram their head into the wall instead of thinking about what was actually working.

On 3HL, Dawn Davenport asked Mike Keith about what he thought about the predictability of the offense against the New York Giants.

The VOTT offered a lengthy response that everyone should go and listen to (linked above), but one part of that response stood out to me:

"“You’re gonna play that game a little differently too because you are against an opponent that is probably not going to score 40 points. Are you gonna utilize personnel differently against Buffalo? Probably so because they can score 40 points. That bunch yesterday averaged 15 points a game last year and it took all they had to get to 21. I’m not knocking them, I’m just saying you are just trying to win the football game is what you are trying to do in those situations.”"

There is the heart of the issues that the Tennessee Titans have in these kinds of games. They called the game like their entire goal was to get above that 15-point mark and they played like they were trying not to make a mistake.

I’m not saying that they should have panicked and thrown deep passes every play, but the reason why the team came out flat after halftime is that this team hasn’t been allowed to open up the offense and really dominate a team.

In the first half, the Titans were up 13-0 and it could have been 17 or 10 to zero if the Titans had decided to go for it from the Giants’ 5-yard line on 4th and 4. At this point, the Giants had four drives on offense and they looked like this:

1st drive: 3 play, 9-yard drive that lasted 1:52, punt

2nd drive: 6 play, 16-yard drive that lasted 3:29, punt

3rd drive: 3 play, 6-yard drive that lasted 2:14, punt

4th drive: 6 play, 17-yard drive that lasted 2:35, fumble

So the Giants’ offense was averaging 2.7 yards per play and they had allowed 4 sacks. Instead of trusting his offense to get four yards against a depleted Giants’ defense for a first down, Mike Vrabel elected to kick a field goal knowing that it was going to be a two-score game whether he made the field goal or missed it, but it would have been a three-score game if the Titans had gotten into the endzone.

That is a decision made because the Titans didn’t fear or respect the Giants’ offense. Instead of playing to win, they played not to lose, and (like it does so many times) that mindset ended up costing Tennessee the game.

Would it be nice if the receivers caught every pass or if Derrick Henry broke a 90-yard run or if the front seven on defense played sound football and tackled Saquon Barkley before he could get to the safeties? Yep, but your game plan should never revolve around every player needing to play perfectly.

This underlying need to be the “underdogs” to validate taking risks and being aggressive is exactly why the Titans have built a reputation as a team that wins the tough games but a team that also throws away the “easy” ones.

Hats off to the Giants because they weren’t afraid to roll the dice. When the game was on the line they elected to go for two and grab the lead instead of playing for the tie.

The Titans on the other hand passed up a chance at a touchdown for a short field goal and decided that they would rather lose two yards and try a field goal attempt from nearly 50 yards out instead of trying to throw the ball and get it closer to a 35 or 40-yard field goal chance.

That is a bad habit and it isn’t going away as long as Mike Vrabel is the head coach of the Tennessee Titans. For all of his positive qualities, things like that will give every bad team in the league a shot to win when they go to Nashville whether they deserve it or not.