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Game Saving Pressure

NFL: Tennessee Titans at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

This won’t be the most in depth article you will read this week, but I did want to point out a play that might have flown under the radar in Sunday’s victory over the Titans.

In the final minute of overtime the Titans had a third and 10 from the Jets 31 yard line, and Ryan Tannehill had Anthony Firkser open over the middle of the field. He’s loaded up to deliver the ball to the tight end.

Tannehill ends up not throwing, however. Why? Sheldon Rankins gets into his face.

Tannehill ends up lucky to avoid the sack by throwing a pass in the direction of running back Jeremy McNichols.

I single this play out for a couple of reasons.

The first is to give Rankins some credit. The focus from this game on the defensive line has deservedly been on John Franklin-Myers, Quinnen Williams, and Bryce Huff. That is deserved. All of these players were outstanding. They played stronger games than Rankins, but this pressure may have come on the most pivotal play of the game. Since it came on third down, it forced Tennessee to settle for a 49 yard field goal attempt. Randy Bullock missed. A completion to move the chains at the very least gives the Titans a more makable field goal to tie the game if not a chance to score a touchdown to win it.

The second reason I bring this up is just to provide an example of how pressure can impact a play. Frequently I see players who generate pressure but not high sack totals derided as though a pressure is the result of somebody coming close but not finishing the job. That isn’t the case. Pressure impacts plays very positively for the defense. Sometimes it even wins you the game.