Titans' QB So Beat Up He Left Houston Feeling Like John Wick

HOUSTON – The lead character in a 2014 action movie was an assassin who lost the protection of his organization as he sought revenge against the bad guys who killed his dog.

No, the story’s not fully similar to the Titans in their 26-3 loss at NRG Stadium on Sunday, but stick with me here.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is sacked by Houston Texans defensive tackle Kurt Hinish (93) and defensive end Derek Barnett (95) during the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas., Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023.
Ryan Tannehill gets sacked/ © Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

When the small contingent of Tennessee media finished a short conversation with backup quarterback Ryan Tannehill and had dropped our cameras, I asked him how he was feeling after absorbing five of the six sacks the Texans recorded, some seemingly in an instant.

“I feel like John Wick at the end of the movie,” he said.

Which one, someone asked in a follow up. 

“Does it matter?” Tannehill replied.

BryMakCollectively the group is not John Wick aficionados. But I'm familiar enough to know, and did some web surfing to be sure, that Wick is pretty beaten up and tired at the end of the flicks. And at the end of the most recent installment, John Wick Chapter 4, he’s killed.

The Titans offensive line hasn’t gotten Tannehill there. But they did allow for Will Levis to be knocked out of a game against the Texans for the second time in three weeks. And Tannehill was sent to the locker room in London after being crunched by the Baltimore Ravens back on Oct. 15.

For the umpteenth time we’re left to say that the play of the group was absolutely insufficient and the architects who constructed it and thought it would be good enough to pass protect and run block for an NFL team with playoff aspirations missed massively.

Finding ways to cover for it has been extremely difficult work at which no one has done well.

“Fans pay good money and we owe it to ourselves to play better,” right tackle Dillon Radunz said.

On the other side of the line, the Titans were back to Andre Dillard to start. Dillard was especially bad near the end of the first half when he gave up consecutive sacks to Will Anderson.

Once again he didn’t make it through the full game, yielding to Jaelyn Duncan after 24 of 53 snaps. 

Another problem as the Titans dropped their fifth of five AFC South games is that they used six guys who’ve hardly been with the team.

The defense allowed only 19 of the points, an effort that’s good enough to win on a regular team, but not on a team that averages 17.3 points a game and was en route to its ninth game coming in below that.

Meet Ceondre Coburn, who played 34 of 61 snaps, along with Ross Blacklock (21). Garret Wallow, an inside linebacker played 17. And on special teams, you saw names you have become attached to like JoJo Domann, Tae Crowder and Kendall Sheffield. 

This is a severely depleted roster, and as replacements fill in the little things Mike Vrabel talks about, the dumb shit that hurts the team doesn’t get any better.
“We’re become our own version of Friday tape,” Vrabel said. “With guys down and things changing in a hurry, we have to all be tuned in and some of those things you can overcome and we’re not where we need to be to be able to overcome those things.”

Friday tape is a film session when Vrabel shows the team special highlights that stand out – distinctive bad plays, and good ones too, that are played and discussed to raise awareness. 

He wasn’t talking about the Titans making the good segment of that. 

Sunday, “those things” included a too-many-men-in-the-huddle penalty and a running-into- the-kicker penalty against Caleb Murphy, a great pass rusher at low-level Ferris State who’s trying to find a niche on special teams.

That penalty took a three-and-out for the Titans and boosted a 13-play, 94-yard 7:30 touchdown drive for Houston that gave it a 10-0 lead.

And there is the poor protection that’s at the heart of everything.

Vrabel said the injury to Levis’ right foot is "not anything that's going to be too, too serious."

Peter Skoronski repeated stuff he and his fellow linemen have said before. 

“As an offensive lineman, seeing a quarterback be injured is sort of gut-wrenching, it’s sort of like nails on a chalkboard. That’s the guy you’ve got to protect. So it really sucks. We have nobody to blame but our unit.”

The Titans are ready for it to be over but have to endure one more game. Let there be something different, some new development in the home finale against the Jaguars. Something to help Derrick Henry avoid another round of this:

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