What We Learned

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2021 NFL season, Week 6: What we learned from Titans' win over Bills on Monday night

Tennessee Titans
2021 · 4-2-0
Buffalo Bills
2021 · 4-2-0

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  1. The inches remain undefeated. Buffalo was half a yard from a fresh set of downs and at least a couple of shots at the game-winning touchdown when Sean McDermott put the game in the hands of his MVP-candidate quarterback. A Josh Allen slip and a stuff on the part of Jeffery Simmons ended Buffalo's chances and saved the Titans from giving up a late lead, producing a thrilling finish and putting the Titans back in the national conversation. As is often said, football truly is a game of inches. In an evenly played contest that saw just one punt in the final three quarters, it was the difference between Tennessee losing a heartbreaker at home and the Titans scoring a massive confidence boost in the form of a victory.
  2. The Titans should thank Derrick Henry for having broad enough shoulders to carry them. Henry amassed 156 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns on just 22 touches, far from the astronomical usage we've seen from him in previous games this season, yet he was the main reason the Titans came away victorious. As Tennessee has done for the last few seasons, the Titans again turned to Henry in key moments throughout the contest, depending on the hulking back to barrel through Buffalo's defense to pick up first downs and put points on the board. Henry responded, pushing his rushing lead out to 260 yards and doubling the rushing touchdown total of the next-closest runner, hitting the double-digit mark of 10, twice as many as Ezekiel Elliott and a handful of others. Henry also marked the third time since 2019 in which he broke 100 rushing yards against a top-three defense, and the second time in that span in which he scored three rushing touchdowns against a top-three unit. He didn't need 41 touches on Monday night, but it didn't matter -- Henry is still the engine that drives Tennessee. On Monday night, that road led to a victory.
  3. Buffalo's touted defense took a hit Monday night. After preventing a single rusher from breaking 50 rushing yards in a game this season, the NFL's third-ranked rushing defense failed to stop Henry, allowing him to score three rushing touchdowns and surpass 140 yards on the ground. And Buffalo's second-ranked passing defense didn't quite bottle up Ryan Tannehill, either, allowing him to complete 18 of 29 passes for 216 yards by spreading the ball among seven pass-catchers, with A.J. Brown fighting off food poisoning to lead the way with seven grabs for 91 yards. Buffalo also failed to get to Tannehill with its pass rush, going without a sack after ranking seventh in sack rate entering Monday night. The silver lining came in the form of a Jordan Poyer interception, but ultimately, an inability to stop Tennessee in the fourth quarter -- the Titans erased a seven-point deficit in the final period with 10 unanswered points -- led to their downfall Monday night.
  4. The loss stings, but the Bills have to be proud of their team effort. Allen was once again excellent, completing 35 of 47 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns, including a tremendous sequence in which he found the unheralded Tommy Sweeney for a touchdown, then caught a pass from tight end Dawson Knox to convert a two-point try. Allen connected with nine pass-catchers in the game, firing a touchdown pass to Cole Beasley to take the lead just before halftime in a wild back-and-forth affair, and it seemed Tennessee wouldn't find an answer for Allen because he was simply too effective at going where the Titans weren't located. But the fourth quarter failure in Tennessee's red zone will end up stinging the most, as the Bills' high-powered offense was able to easily get close to the end zone, but wasn't able to finish the job. It's fair to believe McDermott wouldn't change a thing about his decision on fourth down, and the Next Gen Stats back it up, too, as the call boosted Buffalo's win probability by 21.3% before the snap. The Bills aren't going to get over the hump in the AFC by playing it safe. When they look back at this game, they'll likely lament their two missed touchdown opportunities in the first quarter, which produced six points via Tyler Bass field goals instead of 14 points. The Bills will learn from Monday night's loss and hope to apply the lesson going forward.
  5. Don't sleep on the Titans, America. Tennessee started 2021 in the worst possible way, getting blown out at home by a Cardinals team that is now the toast of the league. The Titans have rebounded nicely since then, losing just once to the Jets in a game they likely wish had played out differently. Tennessee has holes to fill defensively, especially after suffering injuries in its secondary, but its willingness to fight to the very end has emerged as a defining characteristic of this team in the last month. Simmons' fourth-down stop captured this desire in one play, and Tennessee now has a win to hang its hat on going forward. The rest of the league should look at Monday night as a prime example of why the Titans can't be taken lightly in the months ahead.


Next Gen Stat of the game: Derrick Henry reached 21.8 mph on his 76-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, the highest speed among ball carriers this season and the fastest speed as a ball carrier of Henry's career.

NFL Research: Week 6 marked the first time a player scored an offensive touchdown (Stefon Diggs on a 14-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter) in the same week in which his brother (Cowboys corner Trevon Diggs) scored a defensive touchdown since Week 4, 2009, when Vernon and Vontae Davis accomplished the feat.


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