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OutKick NFL Game Of The Week: Titans’ Tannehill Faces Familiar Foe

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Let’s begin with the Miracle in Miami in which quarterback Ryan Tannehill, then playing for the Miami Dolphins, threw a 52-yard touchdown pass with 7 seconds to play to give the Dolphins a 34-33 victory over the Patriots in December of 2018.

And the miracle part?

Well, Tannehill actually threw a 15-yard pass to receiver Kenny Stills, who lateraled the ball to receiver DeVante Parker, who lateraled the ball to running back Kenyan Drake, who ran around and through the Patriots’ secondary — including safety Rob Gronkowski, who was erroneously deployed for a Hail Mary — to score the winning touchdown.

Crazy, right?

The Patriots recovered. They didn’t lose another game that season in driving to their sixth Super Bowl Championship. Tannehill and the Dolphins, meanwhile, didn’t win again and missed the playoffs.

There was also that stirring playoff victory Tannehill enjoyed as a member of the Tennessee Titans after the 2019 regular season.

The Titans took a 14-13 lead with 35 seconds to play and quarterback Tom Brady, in his final game with the Patriots, threw a pick six when New England got the ball back for the 20-13 upset. final

Tannehill threw for all of 72 yards in that game. He completed only 8 passes. It represented the fewest passing yards and completions by an NFL quarterback in a postseason game in a decade.

But no matter because running back Derrick Henry rushed for 182 yards.

The point is Ryan Tannehill versus the Patriots has had memorable moments and games and this Sunday offers another opportunity to add to that lore when the Titans visit the Patriots at 1 p.m.

Tannehill comes into this game with a 4-7 regular-season record in games against the Patriots. Tannehill has never won at Gillette Stadium in the regular season so he may have to draw on his 72-yard performance for confidence.

“It is definitely a tough place to play,” Tannehill said this week. “Historically, they have been really good there. They are playing really good football right now. They are loud on third down, they have the foghorn going. Get into a lot of weather games there too.

“Definitely a tough place to play and we are going to have to be at our best communicating. They do a great job of mixing up personnel, mixing up looks. They give you every look in the book. It is going to be up to us to be able to communicate, (identify), and be on the right people.”

The Patriots have won five consecutive games and introduced themselves into the AFC East race against the Buffalo Bills. They obviously have to beat Tennessee to keep pace with the Bills, which beat New Orleans on Thanksgiving.

“They have created 13 turnovers in five games,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “They have won five games in a row. Number one scoring defense in the league. Offense has been very efficient, number six scoring offense. They are not turning it over and they are not doing things that beat themselves.

“Obviously, they have done a great job of taking advantage of bad football. They are well coached. They are running the football and playing physical so it will be a huge challenge.”

Speaking of bad football, the Titans lost last week to the otherwise hapless Houston Texans. And speaking of turnovers, Tannehill threw four interceptions in that loss.

So, um, it’s kind of important for Tannehill to maybe avoid some turnovers this week.

“Obviously, that was probably one of the worst games I have been a part of,” Tannehill said. “Not something I am proud of but can definitely grow from it. Have to turn the page and move on.

“I don’t think that is indicative of the player that I am and believe that I am. Just have to play smart football. It turned into something that it shouldn’t have ever been. At the end of the day, have to turn the page and get ready and prepare for a new week.”

If Tannehill were to recall his history against the Patriots he’d know his wins all had one thing in common: Limiting interceptions.

Those four regular-season victories included three games in which Tannehill did not throw an interception. He had 10 interceptions in the seven losses.

The small problem with all that is the Titans are shuffling players on and off their roster at a rater faster than any other NFL team. On Tuesday, for example, Tennessee made 13 different roster moves.

The notable ones were signing receiver Golden Tate to the practice squad (with the vision of eventually adding him to the active roster) while cutting running back Adrian Peterson, whose stay in Tennessee lasted only three weeks.

And a lack of familiarity doesn’t often parallel lower turnover numbers.

“It has been wild,” Tannehill said. “We always have a little bit of turnover, but this year has been heavy. I think yesterday in the team meeting when [Vrabel] introduced the new guys, I don’t know how many it was, probably six or seven guys, so you are trying to look around and match a name with a face and remember it.

“Then go up to these guys, introduce yourself and welcome them to the team. Like I said, everyone is trying to fight and get this team ready to go. If we can add some guys that can help us, then I am all for it.”

Tannehill needs to be all for shouldering the weight of the offense. He’s working without Henry and his receivers, and offensive line have been mixing and matching personnel to overcome injuries.

He’s the constant. It’s on him against a familiar foe this game.

And it’s on him to recover from a game in which the list of things Tannehill did wrong was too extensive to specify.

“Name it,” Tannehill said when asked what he has to do better. “You guys watched the game. There were some good things in that game and then some things that hurt us. Just have to clean it up.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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