NASHVILLE – The closest the Tennessee Titans came to a takeaway last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts came immediately after a giveaway.
Right tackle David Queasenberry stripped the ball from Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, who had returned an interception four yards before Quessenberry got to him. Leonard fell on the ball and his offense took possession.
Three games into the 2021 season, it is the only fumble the Titans have forced.
“We got to start turning the ball over,” coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. “Our right tackle can’t lead our team in caused fumbles.”
Tennessee (2-1) entered the week next-to-last in the NFL for turnover ratio at minus-6. Opponents have recovered four fumbles and intercepted three passes. No team has lost more fumbles and just four have thrown more interceptions.
The good news for Vrabel and the rest of the team is that the next two weeks present a real opportunity to do better because the Titans will face one team that has been nearly as bad, the New York Jets, and one that has been worse, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jets, who Tennessee faces Sunday in New York, are minus-5, and Jacksonville, the Titans’ Week 5 opponent, is a league-worst minus-8.
Tennessee and Jacksonville are two of seven clubs that have yet to recover a fumble while the Jets are one of four that have yet to intercept a pass. Collectively, those three teams have four takeaways, half of what league-leading Dallas has all by itself.
Half of the Titans’ number came on Sunday. The Colts intercepted two passes, recovered a fumble and fell on the Leonard fumble following the interception. Afterward, Vrabel said it is “almost impossible” to win with a minus-3 turnover ratio, but that is exactly what Tennessee did, 25-16 in a critical early AFC South matchup.
“It is always tough to get a win when you have three turnovers, but we stayed with it and battled,” running back Derrick Henry said. “Guys made plays when they needed to be made and it is great to come out with a win against a divisional opponent.”
The Titans are one of seven teams that has yet to recover a fumble this season. By comparison, at the same point last season they had forced eight and recovered two. Three games into 2019 they had forced just one, but they had recovered it.
The Jets are one of six teams that has yet to lose a fumble, so that might not be the place to start this week.
However, New York’s rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson, has thrown seven interceptions, tied for the most by any quarterback this season. The only other one to throw seven is Jacksonville’s rookie Trevor Lawrence.
Safety Kevin Byard’s interception early in the second half of the opener against Arizona is the one Tennessee takeaway thus far in 2021. Since then, the Colts, Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks have had a combined 26 possessions, and players – like the media – have heard from Vrabel about Quessenberry’s unique statistical distinction.
“Well, he led with it (Wednesday) morning, pretty much saying `We got to get the ball,’” Byard said. “Honestly, I didn’t even think about that, that (Quessenberry) is leading the team in forced fumbles. But we have to get the ball.
“… I think he was kind of making a joke about it. But we do have to get the ball. We’re finding ways to win without getting turnovers. So, if we get turnovers, I think we’d be a lot more dominant. So that’s the message for the week and the plan for this week – try to get as many turnovers and we’ll see where we are at next Wednesday when we talk to you guys.”