Tennessee Titans embrace winning ugly during four-game win streak

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The crowd erupted as Tennessee Titans safety Andrew Adams raced towards the end zone after intercepting Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan in the second quarter of a 19-10 win this past Sunday.

The play was made possible because outside linebacker Bud Dupree's pressure caused Ryan to rush his throw without seeing Adams break on the ball.

Adams' interception return was the Titans' only touchdown of the day. The other points came by way of four field goals by kicker Randy Bullock -- who was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

It's rarely a nice-looking victory, but nonetheless, this is the way the Titans have been winning.

"It may not always be the prettiest thing," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said, "but we are a group of fighters and a group that is going to answer the bell."

Tennessee has made a habit of winning close games with Tannehill and coach Mike Vrabel. Dating back to Week 7 in 2019, when Tannehill took over as the starter, the Titans have won 20 of 28 games (.714) that were decided by one score or less, including the playoffs.

Tannehill has led the Titans on 13 game-winning drives over that span, second only to Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

"We are going to find a way to win games," Tannehill said.

Tennessee's four-game winning streak ties them with the New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, and New York Giants for the second-longest streak this season. The undefeated Philadelphia Eagles' six-game streak is the only one that is longer. The Titans (4-2) hope it grows to five Sunday, when they play at the 1-4-1 Houston Texans (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

The Titan's have a way of wearing down teams thanks to the 6-foot-3, 247-pound battering ram known as running back Derrick Henry. It's no coincidence that Henry has three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances.

"That's what we're built off of -- being able to last four quarters and wear 'em down from beginning to the end," left guard Aaron Brewer said. "We're going to play with the same intensity and mindset throughout the game. We ain't never going to fold."

The formula is to get an early lead and then protect it with a stingy defense to close out the game. Take for example inside linebacker David Long Jr.'s Week 5 interception at the 2-yard line against the Washington Commanders to secure the win.

Tennessee's defense welcomes the opportunity to slam the door on opponents late in games. That's only right for a team with a defensive-minded coach like Vrabel.

"You got a bunch of goons on the team, a goon head coach," Dupree said. "We go out there and we try to hit people in the mouth as hard as we can. They are going to try and hit us, but we have to be the one that gets the last punch and make sure all of our punches count."

Going against the Titans is like a backyard fight. They seem to relish the muddy situations that come late in games and their mindset is to be the toughest team on the field every week.

That toughness starts with Vrabel and then reverberates throughout the locker room. It has helped win games like last week, when Tannehill fought through an ankle sprain to deliver a pass to tight end Austin Hooper that set up a field goal that made it a two-score game with 4:47 remaining.

The way players have battled through injuries during games to come back to make key plays has had a profound effect on Vrabel.

"I know this is professional football and there are a lot of tough guys," Vrabel said. "I understand that, but top to bottom, it becomes somewhat infectious when guys are peeling themselves off the turf, getting checked out, getting taped up and doing what they have to do to be out there. I am extremely proud of their toughness, their resolve and mental toughness."