The Tennessee Titans can't get out of their own way offensively. They continue to deal with a plethora of injuries at the skill positions and it's led to various comical errors as of late. Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was quite literally handed over after Tennessee turned the football over on an astounding four occasions in a one-score defeat. It was an unfortunate, but familiar theme for an offense that continues to shoot themselves in the foot on a weekly basis. A Week 12 loss to the New England Patriots was largely the result of another four-turnover performance. They somehow outdid themselves in a lowly Week 11 loss to the Houston Texans, turning the ball over five times.
Much of the focus throughout a stretch of three losses in their last four has centered around their injured playmakers, and rightfully so. Superstar running back Derrick Henry continues to miss time with a foot injury. A.J. Brown has been absent from their past three contests due to a chest injury. Julio Jones can't seem to get past recurring hamstring issues. It’s a jumbled situation that has forced starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to play with a largely uninspiring supporting cast that includes Cody Hollister and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine at receiver alongside a trio of ineffective tight ends.
Brown was recently designated to return from injured reserve and may return in time for Thursday's primetime contest with the San Francisco 49ers. All signs continue to indicate that Henry will be back in Tennessee's backfield in time for the postseason. Tennessee is slowly but surely getting healthier on offense, and the return of those two players in particular should help a struggling offense find their excellent mid-season form once again.
Injuries and poor offensive play have unfortunately distracted the masses away from a defense that is playing at an extremely elite level currently. On Sunday, Tennessee's defense did everything they could to carry a wounded offense across the finish line. Their play was the sole reason the game remained as close as it did despite Tennessee losing the ever-important turnover battle by four. Pittsburgh's starting running back Najee Harris was held to a measly 18 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Ben Roethlisberger managed a pathetic 148 passing yards on just 16 completions. The Steelers were forced to attempt five field goals despite taking over the football in favorable positions time and time again.
It was a strong defensive performance that's been par for the course. In a Week 14 shutout victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, James Robinson was held to *four* rushing yards. Over their last two showings, Tennessee's elite run defense has held a pair of talented backs to 22 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
Tennessee's defense has experienced a stark turnaround from last year's porous unit. They are currently allowing just 86.9 rushing yards per game. Only the Baltimore Ravens are marginally stingier, allowing 86.2 rushing yards per contest. The recent addition of former Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham, who led the team in tackles in his debut on Sunday, should help an excellent run defense maintain their current level of play.
Tennessee doesn't just stop the run at a high level, they get after the quarterback routinely. Their 35 sacks have already surpassed last year's totals. Powered by career-best seasons by Harold Landry and Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee's haunting front four that also includes the offseason additions of Denico Autry and Bud Dupree is one of the league's most productive units up front. Few teams get after the quarterback as consistently and as effectively as Tennessee does.
It's all combined to form an excellent defense that's failing to get the credit it currently deserves. Tennessee's postseason hopes largely hinge on the health of Brown, Henry, and Jones going forward. If the offense gets its weapons back, it should become a formidable unit once again. That possibility combined with a defense that's playing at a Super Bowl level could potentially make them a dangerous team come January.