The Tennessee Titans have three players producing at an All Pro level, and it took All Pro performances from all three today to avoid a catastrophic loss.
The Titans (4-3) squeaked out a 12-9 overtime victory over the winless Cleveland Browns (0-7) today, thanks to the heroics of safety Kevin Byard, punter Brett Kern, and place kicker Ryan Succop.
Not only did the three-headed monster save the day, but the often overlooked trio may have saved Tennessee’s season with their play over the first seven games.
Move over Keith Bullock, there’s a new K.B. in town….Embed from Getty Images
Kevin Byard impressed last season as a rookie, playing in all 16 games. He finished third on the team in tackles in 2016, an impressive feat given the fact that he didn’t start until late in the season.
The only thing missing from his resume was the coveted game-changing turnover.
After being named the starting safety in 2017, and being shut out the first three games, the floodgates have now opened for the former Middle Tennessee State University standout.
Byard has accounted for five turnovers the last four games (4 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery), and his three interception performance today is the most for a Titans player since Keith Bullock notched three over a decade ago.
Bullock, by the way, earned three All Pro nods over his stellar career.
History aside, Byard’s picks today weren’t just stat -stuffers. They halted three potential scoring drives on a day when the defense had little margin for error.
Byard’s four interceptions is now tied for the best in the entire league after seven games, placing him squarely in the thick of the race for All Pro honors.
Place kicker Ryan Succop connected on 4 of 5 of his kicks today, his last in overtime walk-off fashion to seal the victory.Embed from Getty Images
Last week Succop put five field goals through the uprights, keeping the Titans in the game early against the Colts until the offense found their stride late in the second half.
His performance on Monday night was rewarded with the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award, and it would be hard to imagine him not winning the award again this week.
Succop is currently leading the AFC in field goals made, and his four field goals today extends his NFL-record streak to 55 consecutive makes from under 50 yards.
He is also second in the league in scoring, and the unquestioned MVP of Tennessee’s last two victories. Two crucial wins to stay atop the AFC South.
Punter Brett Kern, like most weeks this season, was the unsung hero today. He averaged 52 yards on four punts, with two being downed inside the Brown’s 20 yard line.Embed from Getty Images
With the offense struggling mightily, Kern’s kicks kept the defense from having to play with short fields. A critical element to today’s win with zero touchdowns being scored by either team.
Kern is currently second in the league in punt average (51.5), and is .2 yards away from leading the league in net punt average (46.9).
Tennessee has been without their first round draft pick, receiver Corey Davis, for five of their seven games with a hamstring injury. Starting free agent safety Johnathan Cyprien has missed six of seven with his own injured hammy.
The offense and defense have taken turns with anemic play, and franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota missed a game and a half with a hamstring injury.
Yet and still, the Titans enter their bye week tied for the division lead at 4-3.
With players getting some much-needed down time in the coming days, the rest of the team should treat Byard, Succop, and Kern to steak dinners.
Their All Pro performances today, and all season, have kept the Titans’ playoff hopes alive.