Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 28, 2022

Vrabel on run-heavy offense: ‘That is going to be the formula’

Derrick Henry is likely to get plenty of work through the remainder of the season with the Titans unable or unwilling to change their approach. Henry had 30 carries for 128 yards vs. the Colts. - Photo by Mark Humphrey | AP

If you play fantasy football, you probably won’t be scouring the Tennessee Titans roster for much help beyond the obvious choice with Derrick Henry.

This season, without wide receiver A.J. Brown, the Titans just don’t offer a lot in terms of explosiveness and high-scoring games. In fact, the most points the Titans have tallied in a game all season is 24 (done twice).

Yet somehow this team is on a four-game winning streak after Sunday’s 19-10 victory against Indianapolis that gave them a season sweep of the Colts and put them in control of the AFC South at 4-2.

This year’s squad ranks near the bottom of the league in passing offense and passing defense, yet somehow has defied logic and the odds to put themselves in position to win their division for a third consecutive season, albeit with a long way to go.

“I’m proud of our guys for finding ways to win and hopefully we can continue as we work our way into Houston in this division,” Coach Mike Vrabel says. “It certainly feels good to be able to say that we have won four games in a row by, for the most part, doing things the way that we think that they need to be done right now.”

The way things need to be done right now is honestly quite boring by today’s NFL standards. There are very few explosive plays and overall speed in this offense. It’s a homage at times to 1970s football.

On Sunday, which was actually the team’s homecoming tribute to his past, the Titans used former coach Jeff Fisher’s tried-and-true formula: rely on the defense, the run game, special teams and overall grit to get past the Colts.

Running back Derrick Henry carried the ball 30 times for 128 yards. Kicker Randy Bullock kicked four field goals, including the 200th of his NFL career.

And the defense had three takeaways, including an interception for touchdown from recently acquired defensive back Andrew Adams. That helped the Titans wine by two scores despite not scoring an offensive touchdown.

“It is great to get turnovers and, for the most part, take care of the football,” Vrabel says. “That is going to be the formula, if you guys haven’t figured that out.

“That is going to have to be how we play. It is a battle. That is a very good defense. We were close on some things. We will have to continue to work and look. I am just extremely proud of these guys and proud of all three phases.”

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was efficient and made just enough plays with his arm to keep the chains moving, throwing for 130 yards on the day. And he did it in pure Steve McNair fashion, suffering an ankle injury in the fourth quarter and returning the next series to direct a game-sealing drive for Bullock’s final field goal. He even came into his postgame media availability with a walking boot on his injured right ankle.

Surely, with such a pedestrian stat sheet, the way the Titans continue to find ways to win and gut things out shows that the whole of this club certainly is more than the sum of the parts. And that is something Vrabel seems truly humbled by as their head coach.

“It is amazing. I never would have dreamed that given the opportunity to be a head coach in this league, that I would be able to coach a bunch of guys that are as tough as these guys and care about each other like these men do,” Vrabel says.

“I know this is professional football and there are a lot of tough guys. I understand that but top to bottom, it becomes somewhat infectious when guys are peeling themselves off the turf, getting checked out, getting taped up and doing what they have to do to be out there,” Vrabel continues. “I am extremely proud of their toughness, their resolve and mental toughness.”

When the subject turned to Tannehill, who is one of a handful of players this tattered team can ill afford to lose, Vrabel was matter-of-fact.

“His toughness is off the charts, along with a lot of other guys. I appreciate them all,” Vrabel says.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com, a part of Main Street Media.