One of the more encouraging developments in the Tennessee Titans’ season-ending 28-25 victory over the Houston Texans was the performance of the team’s passing attack.
After five straight games with fewer than 200 yards through the air, the Titans closed out the regular season with 287 passing yards and four touchdowns.
That’s why the team’s top three offensive grades, per Pro Football Focus, all belonged to pass-catchers – tight end Anthony Firkser, receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and receiver Julio Jones.
Here are the PFF highlights/lowlights for the Titans following Sunday’s win over Houston:
• Top Five Offensive Grades (at least 20 snaps) – As referenced above, Firkser (87.8), Westbrook-Ikhine (80.5) and Jones (78.5) earned the top three grades, followed by right tackle David Quessenberry (77.5) and left guard Rodger Saffold (77.0). Also above 70.0 were A.J. Brown (76.4) and right guard Nate Davis (71.0), while quarterback Ryan Tannehill came in at 69.9.
It’s easy to wonder why Tannehill’s grade was relatively low after the four-touchdown, zero-interception performance. But PFF factors what they deem “turnover-worthy plays” -- a pass that has a high percentage chance to be intercepted or a poor job of taking care of the ball and fumbling – into the equation. Tannehill had three of those plays, per PFF.
On the lower end of the offensive spectrum, left tackle Taylor Lewan posted his lowest overall grade (53.8) since the season opener, and running back D’Onta Foreman had his lowest overall grade of the year (51.8).
• Top Five Defensive Grades (at least 20 snaps) – Though his sack streak ended at four games, defensive lineman Denico Autry (78.2) earned the top PFF defensive grade, followed by safety Kevin Byard (73.6), defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons (66.7), defensive lineman Kyle Peko (66.6) and inside linebacker Zach Cunningham (66.5).
On the other end, rookie cornerback Elijah Molden recorded his worst overall grade (30.0) since Week 2 in Seattle.
• Downfield passing – Tannehill and the Titans had not had much success getting the ball downfield in recent weeks, but that changed in a noticeable way against the Texans. Tannehill completed 10-of-13 passes thrown more than 10 yards downfield, for 196 yards and a touchdown. He was especially accurate in the 10-20-yard range, completing seven of eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown – and earning a perfect 158.3 NFL quarterback rating in the process.
• Clean vs. pressure – Tannehill was excellent with a clean pocket, completing 14 of 18 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. But he was nearly as good when he was pressured, completing nine of 14 for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
• Solid protection – The Titans only allowed one sack, and that was actually attributed to Tannehill, as opposed to one of his blockers. The Titans did surrender 14 pressures (a combination of sacks, hits and hurries), with center Ben Jones allowing five and Saffold four.
• Hilliard’s bursts – Running back Dontrell Hilliard managed three runs of 10-plus yards in his nine carries, one more than Foreman totaled in 21 carries. Foreman picked up 59 of 69 yards after contact, while 21 of Hilliard’s 57 yards came after contact.
• Pressuring the passer – The Titans recorded only one hit on rookie quarterback Davis Millis – and that was Peko’s sack. But the Titans did total 17 pressures (sacks, hits and hurries). Autry led the way with four, followed by Simmons (three) as well as outside linebackers Harold Landry (three) and Bud Dupree (three).
• Secondary struggles – The secondary had a particularly rough go of things in the second half, when Mills completed 16 of 19 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins surrendered five completions on six targets for 74 yards and a touchdown. Molden allowed four completions on six targets for 33 yards, including two of three targets to Danny Amendola.
Cornerback Kristian Fulton, however, put up better numbers. He allowed one completion on four targets (all against Nico Collins) for 24 yards.