Sunday’s 21-17 Tennessee Titans win over the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field went a lot like Tennessee’s previous two wins.
The Titans established a rhythm, moved the ball, put up some points and went into halftime with a lead. Then in typical Titans fashion, the team held on for dear life in the second half and snuck away with a third straight win in the final two minutes — except this time, the defense waited until the final seconds to save the day.
"You have to find a way to win, and we know how to do that," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. "That's how sometimes it's going to be in this league — defend every blade of grass and guys came up huge at the end."
Though still not pretty, Tennessee at least managed to score a touchdown in the second half against Washington, and the 74 total second half yards were a near 50-yard improvement from the previous week against Indianapolis. Still, the Titans had four punts and three 3-and-outs.
With an injury list that includes Bud Dupree, Amani Hooker, Zach Cunningham, Nate Davis, Ugo Amadi and Ola Adeniyi, the Week 6 bye couldn’t have come at a better time for Tennessee.
“This bye week is going to be a great opportunity for us to catch our breath and get some guys healthy,” Vrabel said. “We have a lot of guys that play a lot of football for us just because they have to, and we need to take care of them."
Below are the things that stood out — good and bad — from the Titans’ Week 5 win over the Commanders:
Good: Derrick Henry is back
Following a sub-par first few weeks, Henry found his groove in Week 3. Since then, he’s rushed for 301 yards, including back-to-back 100-yard games, and he has rushing touchdowns in four straight games. The Titans improved to 22-1 when Henry has 25 or more touches.
"No matter how [the game] goes or how we win, it's a win,” Henry said. “We're just enjoying these three wins in a row. It's so tough to win in this league, and I'm just happy we were able to turn things around in three weeks."
Bad: the secondary
This is an evergreen statement.
Twelve of the 14 touchdowns Tennessee has allowed this season have come via pass — the most in the NFL —and the team has allowed the second-most passing yards per game (287.6) and the second-highest passer rating (106.3) in the league.
Quarterbacks are completing 67.4 percent of their passes against the Titans — the team’s worst mark in the last 18 years — and they have allowed a 300-yard passer in four straight weeks and surrendered a combined 10 touchdown passes over that span.
Kristian Fulton had a pass interference call on the Commanders’ final drive that gave them 1st-and-goal at the 2, while Caleb Farley got burned on Dyami Brown’s 75-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, and Roger McCreary was beat on Brown’s 30-yard touchdown grab in the third.
Good: RBs involved in pass game
With Treylon Burks on injured reserve, the Titans will have to get creative over the next four games to make up for his lost production. Getting Henry and Dontrell Hilliard involved more out of the backfield is a great start.
Henry has had multiple targets in three straight games, and Hilliard has been targeted three or more times in three of the four games he’s played. In fact, they’re both tied for the third-most targets on the team behind Burks and Robert Woods.
The duo rank first and second on the team in yards after the catch — Hilliard 115, Henry 103 — while Henry has a reception of 20 or more yards in three straight games, and Hilliard is the only player on the Titans' roster with multiple touchdown receptions.
Clearly, whatever the Titans are doing is working.
Bad: Where are the tight ends?
It may be time to start putting Austin Hooper’s face on some milk cartons because he’s all but disappeared. Hooper was supposed to provide a nice safety valve for Ryan Tannehill to help ease the transition to life post-A.J. Brown. He’s been targeted just four times in the last three weeks.
Geoff Swaim and Chig Okonkwo haven’t been much better. The trio has combined for 17 receptions, 149 yards and two touchdowns through five games.
Of Tennessee’s 124 pass attempts this season, only 24 have gone to a tight end. With Burks out for four games, and with Nick Wesbtrook-Ikhine and Cody Hollister as primary go-to options behind Woods, Todd Downing needs to find a way to incorporate the tight ends more in the passing game.
Good: Defensive line comes up clutch
Teair Tart has been just as valuable in pass coverage as he has been anywhere else this season. He has five pass breakups this season, including two on Sunday, but the one on 2nd-and-goal from the 2 with 13 seconds left helped swing momentum to Tennessee’s side and saved Washington from scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
Jeffery Simmons had a pass breakup of his own to go with his three QB hits and 1.5 sacks. While the secondary continues to struggle, the front seven has really held things together.
“We don’t want it [to be close] like that,” Simmons said of the defense having to step up at the end of games. “But at the end of the day with the game on the line, I want it to be in [the defense’s] hands.”
Bad: Offensive line got smacked around
Washington really exposed Tennessee’s offensive line, which is mediocre at best without Taylor Lewan.
Montez Sweat and James Smith-Williams picked apart Dennis Daley and Nick Petit-Frere and the Commanders sacked Tannehill a season-high five times.
Sweat finished with four QB hits, three tackles for loss and two sacks, Smith-Williams added four QB hits, a sack and a tackle for loss of his own, and Jonathan Allen chipped in two QB hits to keep Tannehill on his toes all game.
The Titans started the year with a rotation of Lewan, Aaron Brewer, Ben Jones, Davis and Petit-Frere, but if Daley and Dillon Radunz are getting consistent regular playing time, this offense is in trouble.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_