The Tennessee Titans stunned most of the football world by gaining the AFC’s top seed in 2021, then promptly wasted that achievement by losing at home to the Cincinnati Bengals in the Divisional Round.
The team that beat the Titans ended up reaching Super Bowl LVI. It would be understandable if the Titans watched that game with the belief it should be them, not the Bengals, squaring off against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.
All of that is in the past now, though, if you ask the 2022 Titans. Tennessee is a new team with fresh goals that have nothing to do with Cincinnati, except for the fact the Titans once again host the Bengals this Sunday.
Just don’t mention revenge to Ryan Tannehill.
“Just like I said after Thursday night, that was last year,” Tannehill told reporters on Tuesday. “Half this team wasn’t even here. This is a new team facing another new team. Obviously, a game we want to win. But it has nothing to do with last year.”
Tannehill was forthcoming about the emotional toll the loss took on him in the offseason, telling reporters it left a “deep scar” that required therapy before moving onto the 2022 season. A main reason why the defeat was so painful was Tannehill’s performance in the game, which included three interceptions and directly contributed to Tennessee’s upset loss.
His bounce-back season hasn’t included a breakout effort statistically, but Tannehill has done enough to help the Titans to a 6-2 mark in games in which he’s started. Overall, Tennessee is again in a good position, leading the AFC South at 7-3 entering Week 11.
Tannehill’s point about roster turnover is valid. Rookie receiver Treylon Burks, for example, was preparing for the 2022 draft when the Titans lost to the Bengals in January. Burks disputed any mention of his team seeking revenge this weekend, telling reporters “We’re just going to go out there and play ball,” per 104.5 FM The Zone.
Head coach Mike Vrabel echoed the same sentiments as Tannehill, again pointing toward changes in Tennessee’s makeup since the Divisional Round.
It seems that stance is exactly what Vrabel wants his players to take entering Week 12.
“I’m looking around and like, ‘damn, half of these guys weren’t even here [for the playoff loss],'” defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons said, via ESPN.com. “But it’s a totally different team. We’re worried about this year, we’re not worried about what happened in the playoffs last year.
“It’s all about this year and how can we get a win on Sunday.”
A win would move the Titans to 8-3 and give them a commanding lead in the division as the calendar turns to December. Beyond that, such a triumph wouldn’t mean all that much to the long-term outlook for Tennessee, which has weathered plenty of personnel changes to again emerge as a contender.
Much like last season, most folks aren’t looking toward Nashville when seeking legitimate title contenders. A win Sunday won’t change that, which is fine to Vrabel’s squad, a group that prefers to operate in anonymity. But it might open some eyes to Tennessee’s potential, which wasn’t exactly sky high following two straight defeats to open the season.
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