A two point victory over a winless team may not move the needle for most people who follow the NFL, but for the Tennessee Titans and their fans it’s a huge development.
The Titans defeated the Cleveland Browns 28-26 yesterday, and as a result, they are continuing to change their perception as the nameless…faceless franchise that can’t get out of their own way.
Tennessee is now 3-3 following Sunday’s victory, and most importantly, the demons that were exorcised in the process is giving their fan base something they haven’t had in several years…
The Titans have already matched their win total from a year ago, and find themselves in sole possession of second place in the AFC South. They trail the division-leading Houston Texans by just one game, and played them tough in a 27-20 loss a few weeks ago.
Sunday’s win gave the Titans their first win streak since 2013, and the home fans a long overdue celebration at the final buzzer.
Yes, Cleveland is an awful team, but let’s remember that Tennessee was considered that too for the last couple of years.
Key word being…was.
I jumped around to several national media outlets after the game Sunday, and the overarching sentiment from prognosticators were that the Titans have an identity, and are trending in the right direction.
A vast contrast to what has been said about them in recent years.
I saw a poll question on Twitter yesterday, posted by an NFL-NBC affiliate, asking which of the following teams were surprise contenders this season. Tennessee was listed along with Buffalo and Detroit.
Again, a vast contrast from ranking 31st in most preseason power rankings…that were released less than three months ago.
For all of the questions that surrounded his hiring, kudos to head coach Mike Mularkey for evaluating his current roster and devising a philosophy that suits their strengths. Especially on offense.
With all due respect to quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back DeMarco Murray was the team’s best offensive weapon the minute he landed in Nashville this spring.
Knowing that, coach Mularkey implemented the smash mouth identity and made Murray the focal point of the offense. He responded with a spectacular start to the season.
Murray is currently third in the league in rushing, and is on pace to eclipse 1,300 yards and double digits touchdowns this year.
And that’s not including his contributions as a receiver, where he currently leads the team in receptions (24) while being on pace to haul in 70 by year’s end.
Murray is no one-man show, however. The Titans currently have several players performing at a Pro Bowl level.
Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo is currently third in the league with 7 sacks, and Pro Football Focus graded left tackle Taylor Lewan as the best in the league at his position so far this season.
Tight End Delanie Walker and defensive end Jurrell Casey, last year’s Pro Bowl selections, are on pace to re-book their trip to Hawaii this season as well.
But none of that matters if the Titans would have lost to the Browns…at home…again.
Not to the fans, not to the media, and not to the players.
A loss yesterday would have been a devastating setback for a franchise that is desperately trying to change its losing image.
A loss yesterday would have undoubtedly sent the fans over a cliff. Fans who were as loud as they’d been in years Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
A loss that seemed imminent late in the game when the Browns conjured up horrific images of 2014 when they capped off a record comeback for a road team.
This time the Titans found a way to win, and for the first time in forever, the rest of the league is starting to take notice.