Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Six things standing out for the Titans after Monday’s win over the Cowboys, and heading into this week’s game against the New England Patriots.
No.1 Ranked Defense
Yes, this one jumps off the NFL stat book. The Titans are now ranked No.1 in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 17.6 points per game. They’ve allowed 17 points or less in four of their eight games. When it comes to yards allowed, the Titans are ranked eighth overall (16th vs the run, 8th vs. the pass), so there’s more room for improvement there. But points allowed is seen as the greatest measure of success for a defense. On Sunday, the challenge is a big one as the Patriots (ranked 4th in scoring) come to town.
Jayon Brown’s Productivity
One of the big stars on defense all season has been second-year linebacker Jayon Brown, who is coming off another stellar performance against the Cowboys. Brown had four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble against Dallas. At the season’s halfway point, Brown leads the Titans in tackles (58) and sacks (4.0), and he’s second on the team in quarterback pressures (12). He’s having a heck of a year.
Safety Kevin Byard changed the game on Monday night with his first quarter interception, and he changed some of the conversation about the Titans with what he did after making the play. Byard’s T.O.-inspired celebration on the Cowboys star riled up some folks in Dallas and beyond, and his head coach didn’t like it either. Many of his teammates, however, seemed to love it, and so did a large group of Titans fans, who embraced his enthusiasm. There’s no denying Byard has a swagger, and there’s no doubt the play changed the game – and perhaps the course of the season – for the Titans.
Malcolm Butler hasn’t kicked his feet up since signing a new deal in March. The Titans cornerback has been working, and he’s bothered by his unsteady performance so far in two-tone blue. But it’s impossible not to notice his struggles. Butler gave up a few more plays on Monday, and he’s been victimized numerous times this season. Butler has blamed his technique for some of his woes, and admitted he’s tried to do too much. I believe Butler is going to settle down and make some plays moving forward. I also know his old team, the Patriots, will likely test him on Sunday.
Running back Dion Lewis continues to be a workhorse for the Titans. At Dallas, Lewis led the team with 62 rushing yards on 19 carries — the third-highest carry total of his career. He also led the team with 60 receiving yards on four catches, including an 18-yard touchdown in a beautifully executed screen pass. His 122 total scrimmage yards ranked fifth in his career, and he has 277 scrimmage yards in a two-game span. In the playoffs last year, Lewis burned the Titans as a member of the Patriots. This Sunday, he’ll aim to do the same to his old team.
Third Down Success
The Titans were money on third down at Dallas, converting 11 of their 14 attempts. Their 78.6 percent success rate was the franchise’s best in the “Titans era.” The 78.6 percent rate at Dallas also was the highest in an NFL game in 2018 and tied for the highest in the league in the last three seasons. On the season the Titans are now ranked 10th in the NFL on third down on offense. It’s a critical stat to watch moving forward.