Entering Week 9, few teams had been able to generate much pressure against Matthew Stafford and the Rams. The Titans had no such problems on Sunday night.
While Stafford does have good mobility (underrated mobility really), he is a pocket passer first. He is very good at navigating the rush, climbing the pocket, and making downfield throws with bodies around him. So the Titans’ plan was centered on not giving him that room to operate inside. Most of their stunts and fronts, in fact, were designed to get pressure in Stafford’s face.
Just look at this stunt on Tennessee’s first sack:
Stafford may have had a chance to hit his receiver over the deep middle there, but it would have taken a back-foot downfield throw because of the clutter in front of him. He decided to eat the ball.
You can see that the Titans’ sack on the very next play accomplished the same thing – pressure inside:
Stafford’s first interception also came as a result of pressure that hit inside. Just look at the design of the stunt. The idea was to bring two pass rushers from the outside-in to collapse the left side of the line (effectively picking the left tackle, guard, and center). Then, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons would loop around the edge, tight to the midline, and get pressure up the middle in Stafford’s face:
Hard to argue it didn’t work:
It wasn’t just the stunts that hit home for the Titans. Tennessee also used fronts that ensured 1-on-1’s where they thought they could get the advantage inside. On this Jeffery Simmons sack, notice how the Titans showed a 5-man front to ensure 1-on-1’s at the snap:
That allowed Simmons to get matched up on left guard David Edwards, who he then proceeded to walk back into Stafford’s lap for the sack:
Later in the game, the Titans used a tilted front with 3 defensive linemen to one side of the center and 1 down lineman to the other side. They also had a linebacker stand over the right guard, again ensuring 1-on-1’s. The Titans had a stunt called, but it wasn’t needed. Jeffery Simmons won inside immediately:
Simmons had himself quite the night, finishing with 3 sacks and that pressure on Stafford’s first interception. He now has 5.5 sacks on the season.
The Titans have beaten the Bills, Chiefs, and Rams over the last 4 weeks. They currently have the best record in the AFC and appear to be for real. If their pass rush continues to improve as it has over the last month, they won’t be a fun team to play come January.