The Tennessee Titans lost their first game of the season on Sunday, and national media outlets have pumped the breaks.
After Week 6, many viewed the Titans as a top-five team. They had just erupted for a franchise-record 607 yards in a 42-36 overtime victory against the Houston Texans. In a matchup of two of the NFL’s three remaining unbeaten teams on Sunday, the Titans fell behind 27-7 against the Pittsburgh Steelers but nearly forced overtime. However, kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s shakiness reared its ugly head again as he missed a game-tying field goal with seconds remaining, and the Steelers left Nissan Stadium 6-0 instead of the Titans.
As a result, Tennessee dropped at least one spot in each of the power rankings surveyed this week. The Titans’ most common ranking is No. 7, which is also their lowest. One media outlet kept them in the top five.
A look at where the Titans rank in the power rankings and what national media outlets had to say about their loss to the Steelers:
Sports Illustrated - 6th (Last week: 4th)
I don’t think it should be legal for a team to lose the game on a missed field goal (I got you, Scott Norwood). In my mind, the Titans are still undefeated and one of the gutsiest teams in the NFL. Their ability to storm back against the Steelers shows that this offense is one of the cleaner and more functional units in the NFL.
ESPN - 6th (Last week: 5th)
Winning the Clowney sweepstakes was supposed to push the Titans' defense over the top. Clowney has put some pressure on the quarterback, but the Titans have yet to experience the type of game-wrecking performance that compelled them to sign him. Tennessee is last in opponent third-down percentage (60%). A large part of that percentage is due to the Titans' inability to get pressure on the quarterback. Through six games, the Titans only have six sacks. All of the blame shouldn't fall on Clowney, but he hasn't had the impact that was expected when Tennessee reunited him with Mike Vrabel.
NFL.com - 7th (Last week: 4th)
We’ll give Mike Vrabel’s team credit for showing some moxie. The Titans didn’t pack it in after falling behind the Steelers by 20 points in the third quarter, chipping away at the deficit and eventually putting themselves in position for a game-tying field-goal attempt in the final minute. Unfortunately, Bad Stephen Gostkowski returned, and Tennessee’s comeback bid fell short. Gostkowski’s inconsistent performance remains a concern, but this loss should be hung on a defense that couldn’t get enough stops. Pittsburgh converted on 13 of its 18 third downs, keeping the defense on the field and, more importantly, keeping Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry pinned to the bench. The Titans were hammered in the time-of-possession battle, and it cost them.
CBS Sports - 7th (Last week: 5th)
The defense just isn't good enough right now. They battled in losing to the Steelers, rallying to get into the game, but the defense has to be better.
NBC Sports - 7th (Last week: 6th)
The Titans finally played a team with a pulse and immediately fell into a massive hole that Ryan Tannehill almost dug them out of. Their November schedule will tell us if they are for real.
The Athletic - 7th (Last week: 3rd)
On a second-and-8 in the second quarter against Pittsburgh, Ryan Tannehill scrambled up the middle and took a vicious hit from linebacker Vince Williams. The ball was jarred loose, but Tennessee recovered. Tannehill popped back up, went back to the huddle, and on the next play threw a touchdown to Corey Davis. That sequence represents the Titans well. They are hard to kill. They could have easily let up after falling behind 27-7 and said it wasn’t their day. But they battled back and were positioned to force overtime had Stephen Gostkowski connected on a 45-yard field goal with 19 seconds left.
USA Today - 4th (Last week: 3rd)
The value of DE Jadeveon Clowney, who's still sack-less, has rarely been reflected by the stat sheet. But he's never going to get $20 million per year without being a more productive pass rusher.
Bleacher Report - 7th (Last week: 6th)
Much of the talk regarding the Titans' first loss of the 2020 season will likely center on veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski and the missed field goal that sealed the deal. In fairness, inconsistent kicking has been an issue for the Titans this year.
But an even bigger problem is that for the second week in a row, the entire Titans team was inconsistent. Last week against the Houston Texans, the Titans came out hot but couldn't hold a lead. The opposite was true in Week 7 against the Steelers. Tennessee fell behind 27-7 before rallying to peel off 17 unanswered.
This isn't to say that Sunday's loss should be any sort of panic-inducer. The Titans are still 5-1 and in the driver's seat in what's shaping up to be a two-team race in the AFC South.
But if the Titans want to be taken seriously alongside the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Steelers as an AFC heavyweight, they need to play with more consistency—especially considering that five of the team's next six games are against teams with winning records.
Sporting News - 7th (Last week: 4th)
The Titans' defense is hard to figure out. It's based on making big plays and takeaways and is inconsistent against the run. It's also not built to slow down passing games much with a shaky secondary. The offense is well defined with Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, but the identity crisis on the other side of the ball can be frustrating.
Yahoo Sports - 7th (Last week: 5th)
On a day in which the Steelers defense held down everyone else, A.J. Brown almost brought the Titans back. He had six catches for 153 yards, and a majestic 73-yard touchdown started a comeback that ultimately fell short. The Titans hit a home run with the Brown draft pick.
Fox News - 7th (Last week: 5th)
Tennessee lost a tough one to the Steelers in Week 7, but the Titans will look to regroup against Joe Burrow and the Bengals next.