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Most of the questions Ryan Tannehill fielded from reporters the past few weeks have been about his ankle injury because, frankly, the Tennessee Titans may not have the NFL’s best quarterback but everyone now understands Tannehill is the best they have.
So it’s important he play.
Even Tuesday, two days before Tannehill and the Titans travel to Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers, the first three questions in Tannehill’s press conference was about his ankle.
Are you good?
Is your treatment going well?
No, seriously, how did you feel after Sunday’s game?
I’m not mocking my Nashville media friends. I’m making the point they understand Tannehill, which the rest of the NFL views as just kind of solid, is key to Tennessee’s success this regular season.
Regular-season Tannehill Good For Titans
That will sound strange to anyone with a memory of the postseason we witnessed last January.
Not long after the Titans were bounced from the 2021-22 postseason because Tannehill was absolutely horrible, everyone in the Volunteer State wanted the Titans to find a new quarterback.
And there was cautious optimism when the Titans selected Malik Willis in the third round of the NFL draft. It didn’t matter Willis played at unheralded Liberty University. It didn’t matter most people knew he was a project.
His name was not Tannehill and that made him an instant fan favorite.
But a funny thing happened to the Titans, their quarterback situation, and perhaps even their fans a few weeks ago:
Tannehill did indeed injure his ankle and was forced to miss two games. And Willis mostly struggled as his replacement. Which made Tannehill seem a better option by comparison.
So Tannehill gained favor in his absence.
And when Tannehill returned last week he helped the team win, not by running the football with Derrick Henry, but by throwing effectively against the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense.
Tannehill Played Well Against Top Defense
Welcome back, Ryan.
We loved you this whole time!
“It was good,” Tannehill said Tuesday. “We left some opportunities out there. There were definitely some good things that we can build on. If we can just clean up some details on some other things, I felt like we did some things that can push us in the right direction.
“I’m so happy for our guys and proud of the way we went and competed. We just need to build on it.”
Tannehill completed 19 of 36 passes (57.8 completion percentage) for 255 yards. Not awesome. But he pitched 2 TD passes without an interception. Very good.
And his 63-yard touchdown pass to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine served as the eventual winning score and a glimpse of an offense than can deliver dynamic passing.
“We did some good things in the passing game,” Tannehill said. “Derrick had some huge runs for us. We’ll continue to do that. Every game is going to turn out a little bit differently. We’re just going to try to do what it takes to win.”
What it takes for the Titans to tighten their grip on the AFC South is for Tannehill to develop a rapport with players such as tight end Austin Hooper and rookie Treylon Burks.
And, again, the Denver game suggested that’s happening.
All of that.
Titans Passing Offense Show Improvement
“I said it all early in the year that I have a lot of confidence in him and we have built that connection through the spring and through training camp,” Tannehill said of Hooper. “For whatever reason, early in the year we just didn’t have the connections. There weren’t the catches.
“But he has done a great job of taking advantage of his opportunities and making big plays for us.”
Hooper had five catches against Denver. Burks had three.
“It was definitely nice to have him back,” Tannehill said of the rookie. “I am excited to have him back and just want to keep working him in and getting him the ball.”
It seems strange to say but Titans fans should be excited to have Tannehill back. No, he’s probably not going outduel Patrick Mahomes or some other elite quarterback in the playoffs.
But without him the Titans might not be a playoff team in the first place.