NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans led the NFL in 2020 with a plus-11 turnover margin thanks in part to how well they took care of the ball. Two games into this season, that's proving more of a challenge.
Ryan Tannehill already has lost three fumbles while being sacked, putting the quarterback halfway to the six he lost all of last season, and now three of Tennessee's starting offensive linemen are hurting with the Indianapolis Colts (0-2) coming to visit Sunday in the AFC South Division opener for both teams.
Tannehill said the Titans (1-1) try to limit the hits he takes, but that for an NFL quarterback knowing what to do with the ball — and when — is also important.
"You just don't want to blindly stand there and and just continue to wait," Tannehill said. "But there's a lot of situations where you can see a receiver or the concept opening up. And, you know, you just need to stand in there for a half-second."
Tannehill lost two fumbles when sacked in Tennessee's season-opening loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He lost the third last week when sacked by the Seattle Seahawks, whose offense scored a touchdown two plays later.
Yet Tannehill shook off the turnover and guided the Titans to a 33-30 overtime victory. It was the 23rd winning drive of his career and 10th since coming to Tennessee in 2019, the most among all NFL quarterbacks in that span.
Tannehill credits all the work in training camp and in practice each game week. He sees his role as pretty simple.
"It's important for me to remain steady and kind of transition or exude that confidence over to the guys that we're going to go out and make this happen," Tannehill said.
He also threw for 347 yards behind a patchwork offensive line after three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan was scratched before kickoff. Lewan's trouble was in the same right knee in which he had an ACL tear last October. Left guard Rodger Saffold was on the field for only 34 plays against the Seahawks due to a shoulder injury.
Lewan practiced Wednesday, but neither Saffold nor center Ben Jones (knee) did. Ty Sambrailo, who replaced Lewan, practiced but was on the injury report because of a foot problem. That leaves plenty of uncertainty about the left side of the offensive line.
Coach Mike Vrabel said there's only one thing certain for Sunday: "There'll be a left tackle and there'll be a left guard, and they'll play their (butts) off."
One thing helping Tannehill is a growing chemistry with seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones. He connected with Jones on a 51-yard reception last week, and the former Atlanta Falcons star who was traded in the offseason finished with 128 yards on six catches.
"Obviously you see him go up and make a play early on like he did in the first drive of that game, going up on a third down in tight coverage, I put a ball where really trusted him to go to go get it and got it for a huge first down," Tannehill said. "So you see him make that play and it builds confidence quickly."