Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel isn’t one to mince words or let his team bathe in glory after a win. The hard-nosed former linebacker, who learned under Bill Cowher, Bill Belichick, and Todd Haley in his 14-year playing career, knows how to motivate winning teams. That’s why he tells his team not to get too high after wins, although if they can win this week after a major injury loss, it will be cause for celebration.
The Tennessee Titans rebounded after a slow start
The story of the 2021 Tennessee Titans through eight games is a story of two distinct four-game periods.
In the first four games, the Titans were 2-2 with a 25-point loss to the Arizona Cardinals, a perilously close overtime field goal win over the Seattle Seahawks, and an unconscionable overtime loss to the — to that point — winless New York Jets.
During that stretch, the team had seven turnovers and forced two. Star receiver A.J. Brown was another issue, missing almost two full games and only producing seven catches for 92 yards in his two-plus games.
The next four games were a different story. The Titans blew out the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs and earned 34-31 wins over both the Buffalo Bills and the Indianapolis Colts on either side of the KC game.
In this stretch, head coach Mike Vrabel’s squad only gave the ball away four times while taking it away nine times. A healthy Brown made a big difference, too, chipping in 28 catches for 417 yards.
As good as the Titans have been in the last month, Vrabel is working to keep the team focused and grounded by delivering a blunt message after the team’s exciting Chiefs and Bills wins.
Head coach Mike Vrabel makes sure his team stays focused
The Tennessee Titans’ two huge wins vs. last year’s AFC Championship game teams could understandably be cause for celebration in Nashville.
However, as former head coach Bill Cowher noted in an NFL Today interview with Mike Vrabel, the former linebacker “seemed anything but happy” after the surprising victories. Cowher asked Vrabel, “What was your message to the team” after those games?
Well, I think we all expected to win. We go out there and prepare all week, and my mind was already on to the Colts. So, the message to the team was, ‘let’s enjoy it but let’s focus on the Colts and what we have to do and not make this be some Super Bowl victory in the middle of the season.’Mike Vrable on his message to his team after wins
While the message is likely the same after yet another win against the Colts, Vrabel faces his biggest challenge both on and off the field in Week 9.
Not only does he have to get the team ready to face one of the best teams in the NFL, the 7-1 Los Angeles Rams, but they also have to do it without their best player, Derrick Henry.
Derrick Henry’s injury makes Sunday’s difficult matchup even harder
Although the Week 8 scoreboard said the Tennessee Titans beat the Indianapolis Colts, the Titans suffered a significant loss.
Derrick Henry suffered a major foot injury during the game. After an MRI, doctors determined it was a Jones fracture, per Men’s Health, and that the MVP candidate needed surgery immediately. Henry had surgery Wednesday, and ESPN reporter Dianna Russini tweeted that the procedure “went well,” according to her sources.
This all comes as Mike Vrabel and the Titans prepare to face one of the best teams in the NFL, the LA Rams.
In addition to losing Henry, the team will also again be without offseason acquisition Julio Jones, who is slated to miss his fourth game of the season. However, they will have the newly-signed 2012 NFL MVP, Adrian Peterson.
The 36-year-old RB practiced Wednesday and could play Sunday, but no one can be sure how much. The last time Peterson was on an NFL field was in a seven-carry, 63-yard performance for the Detroit Lions in Week 17 of 2020.
A weakened Titans offense puts more pressure on their 22nd-ranked scoring defense. It also means that the Rams means Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and the newly-acquired Von Miller will be licking their lips.
If the Titans can pull this victory out, it actually will be like winning a mid-season Super Bowl, despite what Coach Vrabel says.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference