Just when you thought the Titans had signed off on the 2023-24 season, they beat the AFC #2 seed, Miami Dolphins.
It was borh an exciting comeback and a commanding win. The Titans dominated each facet of the game. Self-inflicted errors made the game close, though, with the Titans ultimately trailing by 14 with just 3 minutes remaining.
Since 2016, teams trailing by 14 with 3:00 or less remaining were 0-767.
With the score tied and just 6 minutes remaining, rookie Eric Garror muffed a punt inside the Titans own 10 yard line, resulting in a Miami touchdown. On the first offensive play of the next drive, Will Levis unsucesffuly pitched the ball to Derrick Henry, forcing another turnover in prime position for Miami.
With a 14 point deficit and time running down, the Titans now had to go 70 yards, score, get the ball back, and score again.
It was no issue for Levis, though. He expertly moved Tennessee down the field, capping it off with a 3 yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins.
Mike Vrabel opted for the analytical play, going for 2 on the team's first touchdown. Rather than a 7 point deficit, the Titans were now down by only 6 after the Nick Westbrook-Ikhine conversion.
The Dolphins ran on their first two plays of the drive then Arden Key came up with a big tackle on Tua Tagavoiloa on third down.
Amazingly, the clock was not much of a consideration after Tennessee regained possesion with 2:20 still left in regulation. After a downfield ball to Hopkins and nice screen to Oknokwo, Derrick Henry capped off the drive, giving the Titans the lead with 1:49 left.
The Titans defense came up big as they had all night, ultimately sacking Tagavoiloa on 4th and 2 when the Dolphins were in desperation mode.
Miami ranks #1 in yards per game, #2 in points per game, and has been putting up some incredible offensive numbers this season. Still, Tennessee allowed just one legtimaite and lengthy offensive drive, recorded 5 sacks, and won the team's first away game since 2022. While this may have come in part due to the injury of Tyreek Hill, it is impressive nonetheless.
Offensively, there were certainly glimpses that make you wonder how Tennessee averages a measely 18.5 points per game.
Especially in crunch time before the half and late in the 4th quarter, the balance between run, pass, and play action made for some impressively constructed drives. While Henry did not break off any big runs, he often acted as a decoy, allowed Tyjae Spears to make some impressive plays in space, and even caught a downfield pass for a first down.
As Levis ran to the sideline after the Titans took the lead late in the game, there was no doubt about his tenacity and commitment to the team. Throughout the night, he lowered his shoulder seeking contact, made big throws, and played unphased despite some crucial errors.
Hopkins offered high praise, saying "I saw a dog out there... that kid is going to be great."
Levis has earned high praise from teammates and coaches and his grit closely resembles that of Ryan Tannehill. His arm talent is no secret, nor is his ability to step in and produce in his rookie season.
He bounced back impressively from his pick six and fumble, making Monday's result and the team going forward quite exciting.
A strength so far, he has developed a great connection with HOF reciever, DeAndre Hopkins, connecting on 6 touchdowns so far this season.
Their relationship and Levis' confidence under center have grown in tandem. When Levis first made his name known in his first start against Atlanta, it came in large part due to Hopkins.
While Okonkwo has steppeded up and both NWI and Chris Moore have made some plays, Spears, Henry, and especially Hopkins have been integral in Levis's NFL adjustment.
As Levis has become more comfortable, so too has OC Tim Kelly. As aforementioned, he has improved in integrating play action, utilizing gadget plays, and getting the team's playmakers more involved.
In turn, the Titans are once again becoming an exciting team to watch.
Monday's win did not resemble that of a 5-8 football team. This was a classic Mike Vrabel performance, making an above average team look very average.
The 28-27 final score is not representative of the game overall, either, given the Titans multiple lapses.
While the Titans record leaves them in last place in the AFC South, there were various productive things to build on.
This win resembled that of the 2021 and 2022 Titans where they go in, exceute their gameplan, and prove, on both sides of the ball, that they can beat any team in the league.
The 2022 Dolphins did sneak into the playoffs last season with a record of 9-8. While unlikely, the Titans 2023-24 season is not officially decided just yet.