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The Tennessee Titans played a complete season: ending Week 18 with a 28-25 win, full of starters, against the Houston Texans, setting Mike Vrabel’s team up for a steady foundation in the postseason ahead.
Tennessee clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC with Sunday’s win — claiming home-field advantage for the playoffs and a bye week off their 12-5 record.
The Titans accrued wins to prolong their season, but going into the season-finale they sought the build the right tempo.
An early-game cruise turned into a rocky ending, but their most deficient unit stepped up along the way to help Tennessee reach their ideal rhythm.
Tight end Anthony Firkser had a redemptive outing: recipient of an 11-yard touchdown from Ryan Tannehill and later appearing with a vital 24-yard pickup in the fourth.
Tennessee’s lead was propped up by Tannehill’s three scores, helping shut out the Texans and Davis Mills in the first half. 21-0.
But the Titans rain into a dry spell of offense in the third quarter that began to challenge their odds at a victory. Their spree of punts to start the third opened the game with 10 answered points by the Texans. Houston extended their scoring streak to 18 unanswered early in the fourth, inching toward an unexpected comeback. 21-18.
The Titans coaching staff, notably offensive coordinator Todd Downing, has been outspokenly confident in Tannehill amid recent production slogs. But the memory of his combined 55 passing touchdowns between 2019-20 suggests that Tannehill still has an added gear to elevate the offense.
Tannehill completed 23-of-32 passing for 287 yards and four touchdowns (career-high) — meeting anticipations of Tannehill’s ability to turn things on.
Receiving has been an inconsistent element to the Tennessee offense, outside of AJ Brown. The group made a strong impression in the final quarter courtesy of big gains by Firkser, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Julio Jones, which propelled the offense above as the Texans sustained their rally. Westbrook-Ikhine was on the receiving end of an improv play where Tannehill pulled off an improbable escape from a sack, gaining 36 yards.
Meanwhile, Julio finds a fresh start in his final game. Hindered by a hamstring injury and COVID protocols all year, Jones ended with 10 targets from Tannehill, connecting for five catches, 58 yards and one touchdown. The two now get started on their anticipated chemistry since the offseason acquisition was announced.
Head coach Mike Vrabel is enjoying his own late-season spark: gaining steam as a Coach of the Year contender for a year filled with statement wins and successful adjustments.
Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela