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Front Page - Friday, January 14, 2022

Tannehill saves best for regular-season finale

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was feeling the heat after throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Texans earlier this season. He redeemed himself during Sunday’s win in Houston. - Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson | Icon Sportswire

When the Tennessee Titans lost at home six weeks ago to the Houston Texans, there was growing concern that Ryan Tannehill might not have what it takes to lead a team to a title.

Tannehill, who did not have Derrick Henry or Julio Jones that day – and then lost A.J. Brown in the first half to a chest injury – did not have one of his better days. In fact, it might have been his worst. He threw four interceptions in helping seal the Titans’ fate that day.

That game was Exhibit A for those who said Tannehill was incapable of elevating himself, that he was not a franchise quarterback. Tannehill had then thrown as many interceptions (12) as he had touchdown passes through 11 games. He had reverted back to his Miami self after two strong years in Tennessee.

But that game turned out to not be the defining moment for the Titans quarterback. He’s found his groove again in recent weeks, notably with the return of Brown to the field.

Tannehill’s confident look and play really started to show in the second half of the comeback against San Francisco and was still there last week against Miami.

On Sunday, in a game the Titans needed to win in order to clinch home-field advantage for the AFC Playoffs – and secure the first-round bye in the process – Tannehill was at his finest.

The veteran quarterback threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers, and engineered a huge drive in the fourth quarter after the lowly Texans had erased most of Tennessee’s 21-point halftime lead.

Of all that Tannehill has done for the Titans in his three years as their quarterback, Sunday’s effort might have been his signature moment.

Tannehill faced a third-and-6, and it appeared he would be swallowed by the Texans’ pass rush. But somehow Tannehill spun out of trouble, scrambled to his right and found receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for a 36-yard gain.

The play not only snapped the Titans out of a third quarter offensive slump, it led to a touchdown pass to Julio Jones that helped to secure the victory and the playoff spoils.

“The guy kind of wrapped me up, but I felt a little bit of space because it wasn’t a strong hold,” Tannehill explained. “I just kept fighting and twisted out of there and was able to make a play.”

Tannehill critics probably won’t be fully silenced until the Titans bring home the Super Bowl’s Lombardi Trophy.

But Tannehill’s play in the final three regular season games should be a big confidence boost heading into the playoffs.

The Titans needed to see a performance like Sunday’s from Tannehill and the passing offense just for the reassurance that it can be counted on when needed.

“At the end of the day, I play to win games,” Tannehill says. “It’d be nice to get recognized, but I’m not worried about it. I’m worried about finding ways to win games and to be great in the big moments.”

Sunday was a big moment with Tannehill. For the rest of the Titans’ season, those moments are only going to get bigger.

Terry McCormick publishes TitanInsider.com and appears 2-4 p.m. weekdays on the George Plaster Show on WNSR-AM 560/95.9 FM.