Friday, November 04, 2022

NFL Week 8 Takeaways



OCT 31, 2022


The Titans have won five straight, and I’m paying attention. Tennessee doesn’t have its quarterback, its left tackle, or its No. 1 receiver from last year. Somehow, none of that mattered Sunday. Rookie Malik Willis threw the ball 10 times. The Titans’ leading receiver had 26 yards. And, yet, somehow, Tennessee still was able to grind out 314 yards on the ground, when Houston had to know exactly what was coming.

“It was a mindset,” center Ben Jones told me postgame. “We knew what we needed to do up front, we got challenged earlier in the week, and it takes all 11. No matter if it’s a quarterback, running back, tight ends, receiver. We had receivers blocking downfield for a long touchdown for Derrick [Henry]. So it wasn’t just us; it was all of us. We had a mindset, we knew it, we wanted to control the rock on the road and our defense stopped the run. So we had a mindset and a game plan and we executed.”


Now, it was the Texans, and the Titans won by only seven.


Still, and I’ve said this before, no one is more consistent in living up to their identity anywhere in the league than the Titans. And it’s because, I think, they so uniformly follow the lead of their best players, who happen to be their toughest guys such as Jones and Henry, and the lead of their coach.


That last part, at least, was obvious in an encounter Jones and Mike Vrabel had after last week’s win over the Colts in which Vrabel tearfully embraced Jones, telling him, “I’ve never seen anything like it,” in reference to Jones’s toughness playing through injuries.


“We have a great relationship on and off the field,” Jones said. “He is literally family to me. I talk to him every day, in-season, off-season and he knows I was going through something that day. And whatever it took, we knew we were going to win that game no matter what, and the way it ended, in our hands, no matter how it was, no matter how we were feeling as an offensive line, it was just our offensive line jelling right there at the end.


“Five guys doing everything they could to end the ballgame. And he was just proud of us and he knew we laid it all on the line, no matter what. We kept getting up when we were hurting, and that’s how much he loves us. That’s how much he cares about us.”


So was Jones hurting after this one, too?


“If I ain’t hurting,” he answered, “We ain’t winning.”


And the Titans are winning.

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