After more than two weeks without a game, the Tennessee Titans made a triumphant return on Tuesday night against the Buffalo Bills. Led by a stellar night from Ryan Tannehill, the Titans remained undefeated and sent the Bills to their first loss with a 42-16 victory.
1) Upon an unfamiliar Tuesday evening in Tennessee 17 days since the Titans last played, the blur of a COVID-19 breakout and its disastrous domino effect gave way to the relief of the simplicity of a football game. For all coronavirus issues and delays and investigations, the Titans were able to concentrate on football for the first time in what feels like a very long time and came away reaffirming they're one of the better teams around. Led by an excellent evening from Ryan Tannehill, the Titans improved to 4-0 and sent a fellow AFC heavyweight, the Bills (4-1), to their first loss. If there were any worries about being rusty with all the time away from real practices, much less a game, the Titans showed none, as a Malcolm Butler interception led Tennessee to an early lead on a night in which the Titans never trailed. There's been all kinds of news on a daily basis about the Titans over the last couple weeks and it was almost forgotten that this was a very good football team. The Titans returned to the field triumphantly and reminded everyone they're one of the AFC's best.
2) A much-ballyhooed first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins taken eighth overall in 2012, Tannehill never found that elite level in six seasons with the team that drafted him. But the 2019 AP Comeback Player of the Year has found a home and a team to lead in Tennessee. On a night in which the man-beast known as Derrick Henry was somewhat stymied, Tannehill was marvelous to the tune of four total touchdowns. He bounded about for 42 yards on four carries and a 10-yard jaunt into the end zone ahead of halftime for a 21-10 lead. And he was efficient with a 129.3 rating, making the most of his 28 passing attempts, tossing for 195 yards and three scores. Henry drives this offense, but Tannehill is the leader and the QB it needs. He proved that again on Tuesday. If he's needed to hand off 30 times to Henry, he will. If he's needed to make plays with his arm and/or legs, he will. Tannehill has found a home and the Titans have found a franchise QB.
3) Josh Allen has taken giant strides forward so far this season. Tuesday night wasn't one of them. Allen's two touchdowns were matched by a pair of crippling interceptions (though the first was hardly on him) and he was held in check on the ground. The Bills' first loss was a blowout and Allen will likely take some heat. But Allen has still put together one of the most impressive seasons so far as quarterbacks are concerned, despite Tuesday. This is one game. In an NFL in which overreactions are the norm and one week feels like a season until the next one comes, perhaps it will be difficult for some to see past a stumble amid an unconventional outing. Oh well. Allen's season thus far has been more outstanding that underwhelming. How he rebounds in an impending showdown on Monday vs. Patrick Mahomes will be telling, however.
4) Though it had been quite some time since the Titans took the field, it had been even longer for Tennessee receiver A.J. Brown, whose sophomore campaign was limited to just the season opener until Tuesday (yes, that's funny to write every time). Brown, who's been sidelined by a knee injury, wasted little time in making an emphatic return as he hauled in a perfect Tannehill lob for a 16-yard score and an early Titans lead. Brown's night concluded with team-highs of seven catches for 82 yards. Brown's return immediately makes the Titans a more versatile offense and potential for bigger days and larger contributions still lies ahead.
5) Stefon Diggs has been a phenomenal addition to the Bills and a huge compliment to the maturation of Allen as a premier NFL quarterback from a raw, gifted prospect. This was a new look though as John Brown was inactive for the game, amplifying Diggs' importance and drawing more Titans attention. Diggs hauled in 10 catches for 106 yards on a whopping 16 targets. Allen was pressing and looking for Diggs a bit too much, so it would seem getting Brown back is paramount. Diggs was half of a phenomenal one-two combo on the Vikings not so long ago and the Bills offense is best served with Diggs and Brown; that much is certain.
6) This was an off-night for Henry. He was held to 57 yards on 19 carries (three yards per carry), but had two touchdowns and a huge, momentum-swinging, come-on-guys-let's-get-rolling play. He's a superstar who makes an impact even on an "off" night. Said big play came when Henry stiff-armed Josh Norman in decleating fashion. It was a play nullified by a penalty, but that left Norman's soul and ego behind nonetheless, had the Titans sideline alive and cheering and the twitterverse buzzing. The Bills did their best to contain Henry, but he still made an impact.
7) Allen's first interception was off a deflection to Butler that set up the aforementioned Brown score to open the Titans' scoring parade. Butler's second pick of the day set up the Titans moving ahead, 28-10. Butler, a longtime former Patriot, has a pair of Super Bowl wins on his resume and knows about big plays in big games. But while Butler made the two biggest plays for the Titans defense on Tuesday, the effort from Tennessee's defense overall was impressive. It held the Bills -- the No. 4 offense in the NFL coming in -- to a season-low 16 points. It was just the opposite for the Bills, though. In recent seasons, Buffalo's defense has been its calling card, but amid the strong start to the season and Allen and the offense's lofty numbers, the Bills' defensive woes have been overlooked. But entering Tuesday, Buffalo was 20th in total defense and allowed a season-high 42 points against the Titans. Tre'Davious White was inactive and the Bills need him to return in a big way -- just like they do their defensive identity.