Buck Reising, Tennessee Titans reporter and host of Tackling Music City, provides three observations from the team’s 20-17 Week 2 victory over the Houston Texans.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two phrases I was thoroughly unprepared to type today: “Blaine Gabbert split out wide” and “Byard to Cruikshank for the touchdown.” Naturally, both occurred. Here is what else stood out in the Tennessee Titans first win of 2018:
- Victorious Vrabel
- With the divisional win over the AFC South rival Houston Texans, the Tennessee Titans delivered the first win of Mike Vrabel’s tenure as an NFL head coach.
- “They were just like they are all of the time,” Vrabel said of his emotions. “Whether you’re playing the game, whether you’re calling it, you’ve got to execute and we were able to execute the situation as it came up. Our Offense was able to take the ball down; I would have loved to have gotten the field goal – the first down and the field goal – it didn’t happen. But we executed that situation just like we needed to, they didn’t have any timeouts, we kept them in bounds, and I’m so proud of our defense. I’m proud of our offense, I’m proud of the coaches. Winning in the NFL is not about the coaching. It will never be about the head coaching. Losing will. But winning is all about the players and the staff getting them ready.”
- Teams with new head coaches racked up a record of 0-7 in Week 1 of the 2018 season. Per NFL Research, it was the worst record by a group of new head coaches in NFL history.
- The Replacements
- Quarterback Marcus Mariota did not start Sunday’s home opener against Houston after dealing with an elbow injury he sustained in a 27-20 Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Instead, back-up Blaine Gabbert took the field with the first team.
“It’s a huge win,” said Gabbert. “Getting Vrabel his first win as a head coach was awesome. This team had a lot of adversity throughout the week. The guys fought their way to this win, and I’m just extremely proud of those guys. Our defense did a phenomenal job containing that offense. The guys that had to step in and play on the offensive line did an absolutely tremendous job opening holes for Dion (Lewis) and Derrick (Henry) and giving me time to throw the football.”
- Gabbert finished with a pedestrian stat line (13-of-20 for 117 yards and a touchdown) but he executed the game plan and did not turn the ball over.
- Additionally, Tennessee’s top three offensive tackles did not suit up against the Texans. Free-agent acquisition Kevin Pamphile filled in for the absent Taylor Lewan (concussion) and Tyler Marz was called up from the practice squad on Saturday to start at right tackle when both Jack Conklin (knee) and Dennis Kelly (illness) could not go. The patch-work unit gave up only one sack throughout the duration of the game.
- Gadgetry Abounds
- Vrabel and his staff knew they would have to make the necessary preparations coming into Sunday’s game given personnel circumstances they faced leading up to it. The results were a 66-yard touchdown pass on a fake punt from starting safety Kevin Byard to rookie Dane Cruikshank to open the scoring in the first quarter and Derrick Henry running wildcat formations with Gabbert split out wide.
- “I just knew I had to make the best out of the situation,” Cruikshank said of his receiving score. “They called the play in the huddle and they said if they get this look then we are going to run it. We got the look and executed. I’m grateful that KB (Kevin Byard) threw a great pass and I did the rest.”
- Per Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com, the Byard-to-Cruikshank connection was the longest touchdown pass by a defender in the Super Bowl Era.