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Dual-Threat Texans QB Holds Singular Place in Titans History

Tyrod Taylor is the only opposing quarterback to rush for at least 75 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee's defense during the Titans era (1999-present).

NASHVILLE – It has been a long time since a Tennessee Titans defense has had to deal with Tyrod Taylor. Long enough, in fact, that no one on the current unit was around the last time it happened.

The challenge, however, is nothing new.

At 32 years old and in his 11th NFL season, Taylor is as capable of making plays with his feet as most other quarterbacks the Titans have faced this season. That group includes Buffalo’s Josh Allen, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, who all rank among the top 10 among rushing yards by a quarterback this season.

None of those others proved particularly problematic. Mahomes, normally a prolific passer, ran for more yards against Tennessee’s defense than any opposing quarterback this season, 35 (on six attempts). That was a little more than 12 yards above his per-game average this season, but the Chiefs failed to score a touchdown. Allen ran it more than any other opposing quarterback (nine times) but managed just 26 yards, nearly 10 below his season average.

Certainly, none bedeviled the Titans the way Taylor did the first – and thus far the only – time he faced them. On Oct. 11, 2015, he ran for a game-high 76 yards and a touchdown for the Buffalo Bills, who won 14-13 at Nissan Stadium. He scored his team’s first points on a 22-yard dash and kick-started the game-winning fourth-quarter touchdown drive with a 24-yard scramble

That game made Taylor the only opposing quarterback of the Titans era (1999-present) to rush for at least 75 yards and a touchdown in a single game against Tennessee. Cincinnati’s Jeff Blake, with 90 yards on 11 carries in the first game in Nissan Stadium history, and Indianapolis’ Curtis Painter, with 79 yards on seven carries in 2011, are the only quarterbacks who have outrushed Taylor against the Titans. Neither got to the end zone.

“You’ve got to be aware of (Taylor),” Tennessee defensive coordinator Shane Bowen said. “He can hurt you with his legs. He’s got the ability to scramble. [He] took a big one against Jacksonville [in Week 1] when they didn’t have the edge and he took it (29) yards down the field. … At the same time, you’ve got to be able to rush but do it smartly.”

The Titans are one of seven NFL teams that currently allows fewer than 100 rushing yards per game (they are seventh at 98.6 per game allowed) and one of eight that has allowed three or fewer runs of 20-plus yards.

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They also are among the top five with 27 sacks, and they have notched at least one sack in every game.

“They’re playing great football right now,” Taylor said. “… The defense is a very talented bunch. A lot of energy when you watch them on defense. They run to the ball, making plays.”

A hamstring injury early in the season has limited Taylor to just three games this season. But with 78 yards on eight carries, he is among the top 10 in rushing yards per game by a quarterback (26.0) and second in yards per carry (9.75).

He returned to action in Week 9 and ran for 23 yards on three carries in a loss to Miami. Houston had an open date last Sunday, which gave him more time to get healthy.

“Before his injury he was playing really well for those guys,” safety Kevin Byard said. “Now he’s back. He can move around, do a lot of different stuff.”

A sixth-round pick by Baltimore, Taylor was a little-used reserve who had 27 carries over his first four seasons. He spent three seasons as Buffalo’s starter (2015-17) but has been primarily a backup since.

For his career, he has just 50 starts and 75 games played, yet he ranks seventh among all quarterbacks with 1,928 rushing yards during the time he has been in the league.

“I think that will always be something that is critical to understand with (Taylor), who has won games in this league,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “We will have to try to make sure we are good on the edges and when we rush.

“It is probably a different style each week and his style is such that if all the rush lanes aren’t sound, he will be able to put the ball away and gain yards. Everybody has their back turned covering man-to-man so if we are reckless in our rush, he can make you pay.”