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Roethlisberger, Tannehill silences doubters by profitable

October 22, 2020

Brooke Pryor

Shut downESPN Staff WriterPreviously, the Kansas City Chiefs worked for the Kansas City Star and Oklahoma University for the Oklahoman.

Turron Davenport

Shut downESPN Covered Eagles for USA Today
Covered the Ravens for the Baltimore Times
Played college football at Cheyney University

This time around a year ago, Ryan Tannehill ousted Marcus Mariota as starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans after he was expelled from the Miami Dolphins. Veteran Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was in rehab for less than a month at the end of the season following elbow surgery on his limb. Both futures were marked by uncertainty.

Both quarterbacks came into the 2020 season with something to prove. For Tannehill, it showed the Titans and their fans that he was worthy of the $ 118 million four-year extension he signed in March. And in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger wanted to prove that at the age of 38, he still had good years behind him with an elbow operation.

In five games, Tannehill and Roethlisberger have their teams at the top of their division and fight for the best record in the AFC. Any quarterback and their teams playing the 5-0 teams (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS) on Sunday are light years from their October 2019 standings. The game is the sixth game in the Super Bowl era between undefeated teams. 5-0 or better. Of the previous five, the winner made the Super Bowl each time.

ESPN illustration

Tannehill: A return on investment

Tannehill produced a historically efficient season with the Titans last season. He led the NFL with a 9.6 yard average per attempt and finished third with a 70.3 percent completion. Only two other quarterbacks (Joe Montana 1989 and Sammy Baugh 1945) in NFL history had a 70% completion rate while averaging at least nine meters per attempt over a season. The Titans' offensive scored 25 or more points in eight of their ten games, with Tannehill as starting quarterback.

Despite the success Tennessee had in 2019, many wanted the Titans to try to sign Tom Brady instead of bringing Tannehill back. There were concerns in the NFL world that Tannehill might return to a form of quarterback that couldn't make it in Miami.

2020Steelers (5-0) in Titans (5-0) 2015Packers (6-0) in Broncos (6-0) 2007Patriots (8-0) 2007Patriots (5-0) 2004Jets (5-0) in Patriots (5-0 )) 1973 Aries (6-0) in the Vikings (6-0)

But general manager Jon Robinson and trainer Mike Vrabel knew Tannehill was their quarterback and he showed why this season.

"He has the ability to coach and guide players," said Vrabel. "He explains to them the concepts we want to achieve and where he wants them to be. This is the most critical part of the QB / Receiver relationship. I think Ryan is preparing the same and has kept a balanced head since the beginning of the season."

Tannehill's 13 touchdown passes make him the fifth most in the NFL despite having only played five games. Of his 13 touchdown passes, 12 went to the red zone. In fact, the Titans score touchdowns on 78% of their visits within the 20 yard line. Since Tannehill started out in week 7 of last season, Tennessee has converted 83% of its drives in the red zone into touchdowns. No team achieved a higher number of points within the red zone during this period.

All players are put on the offensive. Everyone knows that if they manage to get open, there's a good chance they'll get the ball. Tannehill has bonded with five different pass catchers on touchdown passes.

The Titans have converted 83% of their rides in the red zone into touchdowns since Ryan Tannehill took over as starting QB. Frederick Breedon / Getty Images

"Ryan has a good understanding of who these guys are as players," said reception coach Rob Moore. "He's a QB who can read from one to four right away. They know they have to be where they're supposed to be and that he gives them the ball. He tosses it to the open man. As a recipient, you love it to play for a guy like that. "

Tannehill has also proven himself to be Clutch QB for the Titans this season as he has already orchestrated four winning runs. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Tannehill is the first quarterback to have led his team to four wins in the first five games of the season since Charley Johnson of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1966.

When Tannehill steps to scrum with the game on the line, his teammates have confidence that he will lead them to victory.

"I'm proud of our boys and the difficulties we faced in the fourth quarter now four times," said Tannehill. "Every time we've found a way."

It is safe to say that things are heading in the right direction for the Titans with Tannehill. The 32-year-old knows that he fits in perfectly with Arthur Smith's plan.

"When I got in I was expecting that I would expand last year. We had a lot of continuity," said Tannehill. "For me, I find ways to win a game. Whatever the coaching team and my team ask of me, it's my job to get out there and do it to the best of my ability." – Turron Davenport

Roethlisberger: I don't feel finished

With two Super Bowl titles, six Pro Bowl selections, and two seasons leading the league in passing, Roethlisberger doesn't have to prove much anymore.

But last year's elbow injury in week 2 and the subsequent surgery at the end of the season gave him something to add to the list.

Ben Roethlisberger proves that by the age of 38 he can be an effective quarterback with a surgically repaired elbow. Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports

Shortly after three tendons in Roethlisberger's elbow were torn from the bone, his wife Ashley told her husband that she would support him if he wanted to retire, according to a documentary by Roethlisberger's agent.

But that was a non-starter.

"I just didn't feel like I was done with football," said Roethlisberger in August. "I really felt like I wanted to come back. I loved this team and I just didn't feel like I was and I still don't feel like I'm done playing football. If it's a Thought it wasn't long. "

In five games, Roethlisberger proves that by the age of 38 he can be an effective quarterback with a surgically repaired elbow – and that he can win.

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The way he does it is a departure from his first 16 seasons.

His 7.04 air yards per try is Roethlisberger's lowest in five games since ESPN started tracking statistics in 2006. He also got the ball out of his hands faster and leads the league by 2.33 seconds – his fastest mark since ESPN Stats & Info started charting in 2016.

"You have to get the ball out quickly," he said on Wednesday. "Sometimes we do what (offensive coordinator) Randy (Fichtner) says to get the ball into our playmakers' hands – throw fast, run short, run long."

That Roethlisberger doesn't follow the script that worked earlier in his career isn't surprising. In the off-season, the Steelers added quarterbacks coach Matt Canada, known for his misdirection and RPOs, and Roethlisberger even said he was open to adjusting his style of play.

"I really mean it when I say we have to do everything we can to win football games," said Roethlisberger in August. "Of course, as a quarterback, you want to throw the ball. That's natural. But at this point in my career, especially in the group we have, it really can't be anything other than winning football games and having to do that but we. "

Since Roethlisberger came back this season, he has been critical of each other week after week. After every game, he pointed out something he needed to fix. And then he did that.

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After a game, it was footwork. The next week he used his day off to do footwork with Canada. One after another, he accused himself of not being strongly connected to his recipients and then emphasized this in practice during the week. After beating the Eagles, Roethlisberger said he didn't hit his deep balls that often. Before facing the Browns, he practiced throwing deep throws with stacked trash cans into the end zone, an exercise usually reserved for the younger backups, and practiced squad quarterbacks.

"What could be nicer than in training to drill some things – footwork, deep ball things," he said. "I'll just keep trying to get better. Of course I never want to get worse. I want to try to find little ways and things that I can do to keep my game better."

And it works.

Roethlisberger is almost the most accurate he has seen in his career. He has completed 69.1% of his attempts for his third highest odds in the first five games of a season. His QBR of 60.3 is his eighth highest in five games since 2006.

"I'm not trying to prove anything to the outside world," said Roethlisberger. "I just wanted to play the game I love with the teammates I love for the fans I love. That's the most important thing in my head."

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