NASHVILLE — Focusing on football hasn't been very easy the past week for Ryan Tannehill.
The eight-year veteran quarterback is starting again in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, trying to give the offense some much-needed help. Yet Tannehill began preparation for his second start learning his father-in-law died Oct. 23, and he attended the funeral Tuesday in Texas before turning his attention back to work Wednesday ahead of Sunday's road game against the Carolina Panthers.
"It's been a tough week for my family and myself," Tannehill said. "Really just trying to lock in when I am in the building and on the practice field on the task at hand and completely focus on what I have to do. But yeah, it's a tough week. You have heavy hearts and a lot of sadness."
Tannehill shared the news with an Instagram post Monday after the Titans beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-23, noting his father-in-law died a day after turning 55 and wanting a win for his birthday. Tannehill had just finished a walk-through session when he learned the news.
"Just loved so well, loved everybody, was joyful, enjoyed the simple things in life," Tannehill said of John Ufer. "Just a great man to be around, so it was definitely a tough loss."
On the field, Tannehill has given Tennessee the spark coach Mike Vrabel wanted.
The 31-year-old quarterback under contract only for this season in Tennessee has thrown for 505 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception, with his 115.3 passer rating helping the Titans win back-to-back games since taking over as the starter.
He's just two touchdown passes shy of what Marcus Mariota threw in six starts this season, and the Titans (4-4) have converted all six of their trips inside an opponent's 20-yard line with Tannehill in the past two games. That has Tennessee tied for third in the NFL in scoring touchdowns on 66.7% of its trips into the red zone.
But Tennessee also has gone three-and-out 24 times this season, third-most in the NFL behind only the Denver Broncos (26) and the New York Jets (28), according to SportRadar. The Titans also are being outscored 43-34 in the first quarter this season, even after scoring 14 points off turnovers against the Bucs.
That's why Tannehill said he can be better, starting with more consistency and production on first and second down.
"So, it's really every down that I want to be better on," Tannehill said. "Hitting the shots when we have an opportunity and being consistent staying ahead of the chains early in the downs."
The quarterback drafted eighth overall in 2012 by the Miami Dolphins was traded to Tennessee in March for a fourth-round pick in 2020 and a seventh-rounder in the 2019 draft. Now he's 44-46 as a starter preparing for a trip to Carolina (4-3) and feeling as healthy as he has in years this late in a season.
"Not too many times you only play a couple games before Week 9, for me anyways," Tannehill said. "So yeah, I feel good. I feel fresh and I'm ready to attack this week."
Tannehill took over an offense that had managed one touchdown in 10 previous quarters. Now he's driven the Titans to game-winning touchdowns in the fourth quarter of consecutive games. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Tannehill is very methodical and makes good decisions.
"Ryan's done a real nice job for them the last two weeks," Rivera said. "You see some very steady play from him."
On the injury front, Tennessee defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (shoulder), center Ben Jones (concussion) and tight end Delanie Walker (right ankle) did not practice Wednesday, while left guard Rodger Saffold, who played only nine snaps before sustaining a concussion against the Bucs, was limited along with linebacker Harold Landry (shoulder) and cornerbacks Malcolm Butler (hamstring) and Adoree' Jackson (foot). Linebacker Sharif Finch, who has missed three games with an injured shoulder, practiced fully.