OAKLAND, Calif. — There was a time in the past year when Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill looked destined to be a backup for the rest of his career.
But in Sunday’s 42-21 victory over the Raiders, Tannehill looked more like an MVP.
The 31-year-old was solid throughout the day but perhaps never more impressive than when he stood in the pocket, sustained a hit from defensive end Clelin Ferrell and delivered a deep pass to A.J. Brown in stride for a 91-yard touchdown — the longest completion of Tannehill’s career.
“I’ll take that hit every time to throw a 91-yard touchdown,” Tannehill said. “That was pretty cool.”
Tannehill, traded by the Dolphins to the Titans in March, had Raiders defenders turned around all day and finished 21 of 27 passing for 391 yards and three touchdowns and one interception — good for a 140.4 passer rating. Tannehill already led the NFL among qualified passers with 9.1 yards per attempt. After Sunday’s performance, he’s at 9.9.
“Tannehill was playing extremely well,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said.
Tannehill made one mistake — throwing an ill-advised pass that got tipped at the line of scrimmage and picked off by defensive tackle Maurice Hurst. And even then, Tannehill made a tackle to save Hurst from scoring.
Otherwise, Tannehill and the Titans’ offense were as good as it gets.
“It was a lack of execution,” linebacker Tahir Whitehead said of the Raiders’ defensive struggles. “That’s what’s been hurting us the last few weeks. Tackling, getting the ball on the ground, yards after the carry, yards after the catch. We just didn’t do a good enough job of getting them on the ground and staying on top of the routes. It’s been the same thing that’s hurt us pretty much all year. We didn’t go a good enough job of tightening up on that stuff.”
Asked if Tannehill caught the Raiders off guard with anything the Titans were doing, Whitehead said no.
“It was just more so guys running, getting open, us not executing our jobs,” he said.
The Titans also punished the Raiders on the ground. Running back Derrick Henry fought through a hamstring injury to finish with 18 carries for 103 yards and two touchdowns. That kept the Titans in favorable down and distances and negated the Raiders’ pass rush.
Tennessee converted 8 of 11 third-down opportunities, as the Raiders struggled to get pressure on Tannehill and had just three quarterback hits.
“It’s hard to rush the passer when you can’t really get a beat on when to rush,” Gruden said. “You have second-and-3, second-and-4 or second-and-5 and you never really got (them) truly behind the sticks at all. You have to give the pass rushers the opportunity to tee off and rush.”
Instead, Tannehill had all the time he needed to make every throw.
“We felt every time we touched it, we were going to score,” he said.