New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson began Week 4 leading the NFL with 15 sacks while Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill ranked fourth with 10.
But when Sunday’s game ended — a 27-24 overtime win for the Jets at MetLife Stadium — Tannehill had been sacked seven times and surpassed Wilson as the most-sacked passer in the league.
"Credit to this D-line; they've been doing it all year — getting after the quarterback," Jets head coach Robert Saleh told reporters. "It's rush and coverage… But the line, they’ve been tremendous all season. That was good to see them get Tannehill on the ground."
Of course, it didn’t help that left tackle Taylor Lewan, left guard Rodger Saffold and center Ben Jones all went down at varying points in the game. Lewan and Jones returned while Saffold missed much of the fourth quarter.
“Hopefully we can get back on the right track and get back to work and get healthy,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said. “We’re pretty beat up. There were about 10 trips out there, so we’ll see where we are health wise.”
Sure, the Titans were without star receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. But honestly, who knows how big of a difference either would have made. Entering Week 4, Tannehill had been sacked 10 times, blitzed 29 times, hit 11 times and pressured 23 times with both WRs in the lineup.
The problem Sunday lied in the ease with which New York’s edge rushers were getting into the Titans’ backfield. Tannehill was pressured on 21 of his 56 drop backs (37.5 percent), was hit 14 times and was sacked seven times — including five times on third down.
Tannehill been pressured on 30 percent of his drop backs in each of his last two games, and he has been pressured a minimum of almost 30 percent of the time in three of four games.
Four Jets players had six or more pressures on Tannehill Sunday — John Franklin-Myers (eight), Bryce Huff (seven), Quinnen Williams (six), Sheldon Rankins (six) — which ties for the most in a single game since 2016, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
Right tackle David Quessenberry was abused the most, allowing three sacks and 11 pressures, while right guard Nate Davis allowed one sack and nine pressures. Lewan, Jones and Ty Sambrailo allowed three pressures each.
“Obviously coming in, we had a ton of respect for this front," Tannehill said. "The way they played on tape showed up, the way they push the pocket and get after the passer. We knew it was going to be a physical, tough game up front. But you never go into a game thinking you’re going to take a bunch of hits.”
The seven sacks Tannehill took Sunday are tied for the second-most of his career. He was sacked nine times in 2018 as a member of the Miami Dolphins.
The Titans allowed 25 sacks all of last season (tied for fifth fewest). But through four games this season, they have allowed 17. Tannehill is currently on-pace to be sacked 72 times this season, which would tie him with Randall Cunningham for the second-most in a single season. David Carr holds the record (76 in 2002).
“We [knew we’re] not going to have all day, especially against a front like this,” Vrabel said. “We talked about it all week. We talked about it being a key and it impacted the game. Either we didn’t get open quick enough, or we didn’t protect long enough.”
With the Jacksonville Jaguars next on the schedule, one would think it would be a nice get-right game to rebound with. But of course, that’s what everyone said about the Jets last week.
Sunday may have been the worst game of Vrabel’s tenure in Tennessee, all things considered. I wouldn’t expect a repeat performance in Jacksonville.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_