NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans found a way to beat the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday in a battle of undefeated teams, despite numerous obstacles placed in their path after the NFL’s first COVID-19 outbreak.
The Titans’ 42-16 win over the Bills came after they had only three practices in 16 days. Head coach Mike Vrabel maintained his faith in the players, even though the odds were stacked against them.
“I’m never going to question this football team. I’m never going to question the effort,” Vrabel said. “I’m never going to go into a game questioning how we’re going to do. I expect us to win and play with great effort.”
Not being able to practice for two weeks could have been an obstacle, but it wasn’t a big factor for the Titans, who returned to their facility Saturday after the building was shut down Sept. 29. The Titans had three days of walk-through practices to get ready for Buffalo, but they refused to use the lack of practice time as an excuse.
Tennessee faced a lot of scrutiny after having 24 players and team personnel members test positive for COVID-19 since Sep. 24. The NFL/NFLPA even launched an investigation that concluded recently. All of the adversity seemed to bring the Titans closer, allowing them to rally around one another while so much negativity was being directed their way.
“You don’t all of a sudden galvanize when things are bad,” Vrabel said. “I think that’s a testament to the players and what we’ve tried to build here. You don’t always say, ‘Oh, there’s a s—storm. We better galvanize.’ You stay tight throughout, and you hope that the fundamentals and your core beliefs and core values take over when things get difficult.”
The win over the Bills gives the Titans a 4-0 record for the second time in franchise history, with the other being when they started with 10 straight victories in 2008. The team finished 13-3 that season. Tennessee is one of only two undefeated teams in the AFC. (The Pittsburgh Steelers also are 4-0.)
The Titans got some players back in time for Tuesday’s game, but they were without starting receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries. Despite having only four wideouts active for the game, quarterback Ryan Tannehill found ways to make the passing game go.
Tannehill finished with 21 completions on 28 attempts for 195 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came against the blitz. The normally reserved Tannehill was excited about the win and thought it was a statement game.
“What this team and organization has been through the past couple of weeks, to fight through it and shake it off, limited practice, limited reps, that makes a statement,” Tannehill said. “We got a lot of heat. I didn’t understand why we were under so much heat. Personal things were said against our team and our guys that were uncalled for. We were ticked off about how we were treated and looked at. We wanted to come out, play our game and do what we knew we could do. This team always plays with a chip on our shoulder. We’re excited about where we are at, being 4-0.”