The Titans entered Tuesday night's matchup with their backs against the wall, despite having the advantage of playing at home.
After having its practice and game day schedule impacted by a COVID-19 outbreak within the organization following Week 3, Tennessee faced a rolling Buffalo team, led by an early season MVP candidate in Josh Allen, in a battle of unbeaten clubs.
With a few key players missing due to being placed on the reserve/COVID list, the Titans could've blamed a loss on not having their full arsenal of players. Of course, by the time the team finished dismantling the Bills in a 42-16 romp, it was clear that their energy had not been impacted by the challenges they encountered in the weeks prior.
"We knew it wasn't going to be perfect. We went through a lot these last two weeks dealing with this virus and I just think it made us closer," cornerback Malcolm Butler said after the game. "Made us just go out there and play hard for each other and just get the win, man. It's all about winning."
Judging by their sharp effort in all three phases, "playing hard" almost sounds like an understatement. Every team goes into each week wanting to win, but the Titans looked very much like a team eager to pick up where they left off two weeks ago.
Coach Mike Vrabel credited his team's preparation during their unexpected time away from the practice facility for their execution
"They're all about want and desire. We want to win every game and we have to prepare in any matter that we have to to get the team ready. " Vrabel said. "All the credit goes to the players for sticking together and going out there and executing and playing in a manner in which they did."
It was Butler who set the tone early with his first of two picks on Allen during the game's opening drive. Shortly after a 29-yard Butler return, Ryan Tannehill found A.J. Brown, making his first appearance since Week 1 because of a knee injury, for a 16-yard score. The domination would commence from there as the Titans looked nearly unflappable for the duration.
Tennessee became the first team to score a TD on every red zone possession (minimum six red zone drives) while having zero turnovers and allowing no sacks since the Patriots did so in Week 11 of their undefeated 2007 regular season, per NFL Research. Vrabel, who was a key member on that team, believes his team's ability to stay locked in reflected the organization's culture.
"Well, you don't all of a sudden galvanize when things are bad. I think that that's a testament to these players and what we've tried to build here," he shared. "You don't always say, 'Oh, there's a [expletive] storm, we better galvanize.' You stay tight throughout and then you hope that the fundamentals and what your core beliefs and core values can take over when things get difficult."
That mindset certainly worked wonders Tuesday night. When asked about the things that contributed to the win outside of the Xs and Os, Vrabel praised everyone in the building, from the cafeteria workers and cleaning staff to the operations department and practice squad for their sacrifices and effort.
"Everybody involved with our organization will get a game ball. I felt like everybody who played tonight, looked out there and there were a lot of contributions on special teams and offense and defense," Vrabel said. "It looked like everybody had a role in the game and we knew that that was gonna be important."
As the NFL and its teams continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic, the Titans' Week 5 triumph represents an encouraging story for a franchise still trying to find its bearings. They will now have to regroup once again in a much-shortened week in preparation for a meeting with the Texans on Sunday.