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Fourth-quarter comebacks becoming routine for Ryan Tannehill, Titans

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Late-game rallies are becoming a calling card for Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans.

After Monday night's 16-14 victory over the Denver Broncos in the season opener, Tennessee has five fourth-quarter comeback wins since Week 7 of last season, which is when Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback. That's the most in the NFL in that time.

With 3:05 left Monday in Denver, Tannehill and the Titans took over at their 10-yard line down by a point. Tannehill completed four passes for 34 yards as Tennessee methodically drove 83 yards to set up Stephen Gostkowski's 25-yard field goal with 17 seconds left.

"I try to keep a steady hand. A steady hand drives the ship," Tannehill said. "We can't panic. I believe in myself, but the whole offense, in that situation, we knew we [had the length] of the field. We knew we were going to have to put a drive together and had to do it one play at a time."

The mixture of Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry continues to be a successful formula for Tennessee, whether it be fourth-quarter comebacks or a steady, clock-eating offense that keeps a lead.

Since Week 7 last season, Tannehill has recorded 2,847 passing yards (10th in the NFL) in the fourth quarter. Tannehill's 9.1 yards per attempt is the highest fourth-quarter average in the NFL. His 68.9 total QBR is sixth in that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Corey Davis had 9 receiving yards in the fourth quarter Monday, but he emerged as a go-to receiver for Tannehill against Denver, finishing with seven receptions for 101 yards. It was the fourth-year receiver's first 100-yard receiving game since 2018, and it marked the most yards he has gained with Tannehill as quarterback.

A more effective passing game adds balance to the Titans' offense, especially late in games, when teams focus on stopping Henry. Tannehill's 34 passing yards and Henry's 33 rushing yards in the game-winning drive Monday provide a good example of that balance.

Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith's willingness to keep running the football, especially late in games, allows Henry's punishing rushing style to wear down defenses.

"We just had to trust in what we do and keep pounding. Eventually, something will open up for us," Henry said.

True to form, Henry's longest run (13 yards) against the Broncos came on that drive. He has 270 rushing yards in the fourth quarter since Week 7, trailing only Kenyan Drake (292 yards) and Carlos Hyde (284).

"You have faith in the players. Give them calls you know that they're comfortable with, that they have confidence in and able to execute and being at our best in a critical situation," coach Mike Vrabel said.

Vrabel devotes a portion of practice to specific situations that might occur late in games. During training camp, he put the offense in a situation that simulated a 20-17 win over the Houston Texans in 2018. What the Texans did wrong provided the teaching moment.

Down by three points, Houston had the ball at its 48-yard line with 17 seconds left. Deshaun Watson scrambled, taking almost all of the time off the clock before finding DeAndre Hopkins for a 31-yard gain. The Texans got into field goal position, but time expired before they could take another snap. It was Vrabel's first victory as a head coach.

Vrabel put Tennessee's offense through the same test, and like Watson in 2018, Tannehill failed to throw the ball away to stop the clock. That provided experience that will help in times when unprepared teams feel stress.

"That'll be a great thing for us to learn from. We'll be able to show him the same exact play on film from a few years ago against an opponent that we had," Vrabel said after practice in August.

These details are why the Titans believe they are mentally tough enough to seal the deal late in games.

"Can't have a team that's a bunch of front-runners that are only into it when you're winning," Vrabel said. "You try not to get too high, too low, try not to panic."