The Jacksonville Jaguars defense has been the media darlings of the NFL since the season opener, when they racked up ten sacks against the Houston Texans.
They re-named themselves Sacksonville shortly after and never looked back, leading the NFL in that category every week since.
But no team has harassed and brought down opposing quarterbacks over the last month more than the Tennessee Titans.
Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has found his groove with his young defense, who has quietly registered a whopping 23 sacks over the last four games. That’s nine more than the Baltimore Ravens who are second in that span.
As a result, Tennessee is now fifth in the league with 37 sacks after struggling to get to the quarterback the first half of the season.
And Titans fans should expect that trend to continue Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Teams that register a high number of sacks usually do so because they make teams one-dimensional. That’s accomplished one of two ways, by having a high-octane offense that forces teams to throw to stay in games, or by stopping the run.
The Titans have excelled at the latter.
Tennessee is currently fifth in the league in run defense, allowing just 90 yards per game on the ground. They are third in yards per rush allowed (3.6), and the number one defense in rushing touchdowns allowed (5).
The Titans entered last week’s contest with Arizona on an eight game streak of holding opposing offenses to less than 100 total yards rushing. And while the Cardinals broke that streak last week, they were unable to salt the game away with the run game when they needed to most.
Tennessee’s defense made several key stops late in that game to give their offense a chance to win, but Marcus Mariota and company failed to cash in.
The 49ers have struggled to run the ball with consistent effectiveness all season, ranking 22nd in the league at 100 yards per game on the ground.
San Francisco’s offensive line has been equally inconsistent in protecting the qb. Their 39 sacks allowed is the ninth most in the league.
So the game plan is simple for the Titans on defense this Sunday, take away Carlos Hyde and the run game…then pin their ears back and get after Jimmy Garoppolo.
While the 49ers have solid skill players, none of the receivers should pose the threat of an A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins, or Larry Fitzgerald…the last five receivers the Titans faced.
Not having to double one receiver should give LeBeau plenty of options to harass and confuse a qb that is still learning a new system.
The only question now is, will Tennessee’s offense join the party Sunday? We’ll discuss that more in-depth later this week.