In the previous installment of this three-part series, we looked at Ryan Tannehill’s performance against the New England Patriots. As we continue to evaluate Tannehill’s play in arguably the franchise’s most important games of the Mike Vrabel era, we will focus on his game against the Baltimore Ravens.
14:22- After allowing only a yard to Derrick Henry on the first run, the Ravens intend to set the tone early by engaging eight and dropping only three into coverage. Fortunately for the Titans, they counter by running a play action bootleg to the left. Mycole Pruitt gets a free release from the right side and runs a flat route that places him running wide open parallel with Tannehill. Under duress from a blitzing Earl Thomas, Tannehill places the ball behind Pruitt, causing Pruitt to have to make an awkward adjustment to snag it. It slows him enough that he misses the opportunity for a few additional yards after the catch. Despite this, Pruitt manages to scoot well past the first-down marker.
13:09- Derrick Henry picks up four more yards, setting up second and six. A.J. Brown motions from left to right and then back right to left. He is still in motion to Tannehill’s left as the play begins. After a fake to Henry, Tannehill’s first move is to drop back and read the middle of the field. However, when Brandon Williams eventually gets penetration, Tannehill panics and locks on to checkdown option Derrick Henry. It is a shame, because by this time, Tajae Sharpe is open in the middle and A.J. Brown is waiting in the right flat with a lot of space with which to work. Henry catches the ball, but is immediately tackled for a one-yard loss on the play.
12:00- After taking a delay of game penalty on the next play, the Titans face third and twelve. Kalif Raymond motions to the right and back to the left, setting up a formation with A.J. Brown and Raymond on the left and Corey Davis and Anthony Firkser on the right. Tannehill does a good job avoiding the edge rush by stepping up in the pocket, resetting, and firing. His deep throw to A.J. Brown is errant and hits Jimmy Smith in the legs. The Titans have to punt.
5:25- This sequence occurs after a long Ravens drive ends with an interception and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Lamar Jackson. Derrick Henry accumulates 20 yards on the first four plays. This sets up third and two on the Ravens 15-yard line. From 11 personnel, the Titans receivers and tight end all line up left and run dig routes at different depths with Tannehill rolling in their direction. The Ravens’ coverage does a great job of not allowing the receivers to get any separation, forcing Tannehill to scramble out of bounds. Linebacker Patrick Onwuasor is too aggressive and hits the already retreating Tannehill, which in turn draws an unnecessary roughness penalty.
4:23- Derrick Henry picks up two yards on the next play, pushing the Titans further into the red zone to the Baltimore four-yard line. This play has no chance of success when Darius Jennings fails to pick up the blitzing Earl Thomas. Thomas quickly brings down Tannehill for an eight-yard loss.
3:42- Tennessee goes to 11 personnel again and lines up Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, and Jonnu Smith to the left of the formation. Davis and Brown run routes that break right and clear defensive coverage for an isolated shot at Smith on the fade route. The pass placement is out of the reach of the defensive back, but it is poor in the sense that it was placed on the side of the inside shoulder and almost out of reach of Smith. Thanks to an incredible in-air adjustment, one-handed snag, and getting his feet down in bounds, Smith is able to haul in the score on third and 12.
14:53- After a fourth-down stop by the defense, the Titans have a shorter field and take full advantage of the situation in a single play. This is one of the rare times that the Titans employ 13 personnel and put Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, and Mycole Pruitt to the right of the linemen with Kalif Raymond split left. The Ravens rush six and drop five, but the pass rush does not get near Tannehill and the coverage down the field is poor. After faking the handoff to Henry, Tannehill has plenty of time to load up and throw a perfect strike to the streaking Kalif Raymond, who has Marlon Humphey beat by at least three steps. Anthony Firkser was also wide open in the middle of the field at a shallower depth, but Tannehill correctly identifies that Raymond is the better choice. The result is another Tennessee touchdown.
12:15- After a three-and-out by the Ravens, the Titans start their next drive productively. They earn nine yards on an end around from A.J. Brown and four more yards on the ground from Derrick Henry in back-to-back plays. With first and 10 on the Tennessee 41, Tannehill makes adjustments at the line. Jonnu Smith is just off the line on the right side of the formation with Corey Davis in a reduced split, A.J. Brown in a reduced split out left, and Tajae Sharpe out wide left. Tannehill makes the decision to take another deep shot, this time to Tajae Sharpe. Jimmy Smith is very hands-y with Sharpe late in the route and probably should have been called for pass interference. Tannehill’s ball sails ahead and left of the receiver, resulting in an incompletion.
11:29- Derrick Henry carries for a four-yard loss on the next play, setting up third and 14. The Titans operate out of an empty set. As the snap arrives, Tannehill looks left and his eyes never leave that side of the field for the duration of the play. A second before Tannehill releases the ball, A.J. Brown breaks open on the opposite side of the field, but Tannehill never sees him. With pressure getting close, it appears Tannehill intentionally throws the ball away in the direction of Tajae Sharpe. An initially promising drive stalls and ends with a punt.
5:46- The Ravens manage to earn a field goal before giving the Titans the ball back. From their 20, the Titans go to 21 personnel, a look that is very rare for them. After the fake handoff, Tannehill immediately throws a pass to Jonnu Smith, suggesting that this was a designed play with no leeway for Tannehill to make a different choice. Smith was lined up to the left of the formation, but cut across the backfield to the right, the opposite of the blocking side. Baltimore is not fooled by the misdirection and Earl Thomas makes the tackle on Smith for no gain.
4:13- On the next play, Derrick Henry breaks away for 27 yards. Taylor Lewan draws a false start penalty on the ensuing first down. On first and 15 from the Tennessee 41, the Titans morph into 22 personnel and the Ravens respond with eight men in the box. Kalif Raymond and Jonnu Smith run routes and Tannehill fakes the handoff before looking right to see if Smith is open. Smith never breaks open, so Tannehill spins back to the left and checks it down to Derrick Henry. Henry weaves his way for eight yards before Justin Ellis catches him in pursuit.
2:48- Derrick Henry gets bottled up for one yard on the next play, setting up a manageable third and six. Tajae Sharpe, Anthony Firkser, and Corey Davis line up in reduced splits to the right of the formation while A.J. Brown is the lone receiver to the left. Tannehill scans the field from the pocket until pressure forces him to break the pocket to the right side of the field. Under fire from Jaylon Ferguson and Earl Thomas, Tannehill releases a pass to Corey Davis that Tyus Bowser had more of a chance at catching than the receiver. Fortunately for the Titans, Bowser cannot slow his momentum enough to make the grab and bats the ball with one hand. Corey Davis nearly comes down with the second chance opportunity, but it lands incomplete. Once again, Tennessee is forced to punt.
7:02- Despite possession before and after the half, Baltimore does not manage to score and the ball is turned over to Tennessee on another fourth-down stop. Derrick Henry gashes the Ravens for 78 yards on four plays before Ryan Tannehill has his next attempt. This play is interesting because the ball is snapped while A.J. Brown is still in motion in the backfield, but he is taken out of the play when he accidentally runs into the backside of a blocking Jack Conklin. That leaves Corey Davis, Darius Jennings, Jonnu Smith, or Dion Lewis to make a play. Ryan Tannehill sees Jennings come open and throws a very precise and catchable ball into a tight window between Josh Bynes and Marcus Peters. Jennings is unable to complete the catch. Fortunately for Tennessee, they score on the next play when Derrick Henry takes a direct snap and throws a pass to Corey Davis.
6:04- Jurell Casey sacks Lamar Jackson and forces a fumble that is recovered by Jeffery Simmons, giving the Titans the ball back quickly. After a four-yard gain by Derrick Henry, the Titans run a rub route with Jonnu Smith and A.J. Brown. The hope is that both L.J. Fort and Marlon Humphrey will get stuck in Brown’s path and allow Smith a free release. Fort ends up behind Smith, but manages to recover later in the play. Tannehill attempts a pass to Smith. It is another well-placed throw, but Fort manages to get an arm in and keep Smith from making the catch.
5:59- On the next play, Tennessee needs six yards to keep the drive alive. The Titans run another rub concept with A.J. Brown and Tajae Sharpe lined up on the right. This one works to perfection, making Marcus Peters take a longer path to get to Brown and giving Brown a window to make a catch and cut inside for a bigger gain.
4:20- Derrick Henry picks up five yards on the next set of plays. Faced with third and goal, the Titans run an option play with Derrick Henry and Tannehill. Tannehill fakes the flip and a great block from Nate Davis on L.J. Fort springs Tannehill for a touchdown.
On the Ravens following series, Kenny Vaccaro intercepts Lamar Jackson. With a commanding lead, the Titans now seek to run out the clock. Derrick Henry manages to keep the chains moving until the beginning of the fourth quarter.
15:00- Faced with third and four, the Titans line up with trips left, A.J. Brown to the right, and Dion Lewis in the backfield. Jaylon Ferguson runs unblocked to the quarterback and hits Tannehill as he is delivering a pass to an open A.J. Brown. It causes the ball to skip harmlessly off the turf. The Titans wisely punt.
9:32- The Ravens finally score a touchdown on their next drive, but fail the two-point conversion. At this point, it is about chewing up the clock, so Derrick Henry gets most of the work. On third and one, the Titans opt to run a quarterback sneak. Their line dominates the trenches and Tannehill easily earns the yardage needed to convert.
8:49- Faking the handoff to Henry and seeing the defense bite on the fake, Tannehill notices plenty of green grass in front of him and takes off. He cruises through the open right side of the field for a nine-yard gain. This will be the last play on which Tannehill does anything besides hand off before the kneel downs at 0:49 and 0:29. Henry is effective for the next two drives after this one in terms of salting the clock away before needing to punt.
Final Tannehill statline: 7/14 passing for 88 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. One rushing touchdown.
Performance grade for Tannehill: B
Rationale: Tannehill was a slow-starter in this game, but he did make a couple of tremendous throws at certain points. The game script was about as favorable for him as you could ask for in a playoff game, but we will not hold that against him. He executed when it was most critical to do so and helped support Derrick Henry’s big day by offering another element for which the defense had to account.
In the final article, we will examine Tannehill’s performance against the Kansas City Chiefs and consider what all three playoff appearances reveal about Tannehill’s future with the team.
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