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The Tennessee Titans handled their business this past Sunday, beating the Indianapolis Colts and taking the lead in the AFC South. There was a ton a praise for the Titans’ offense and how they played, but the defense deserves a lot of credit for their play, showing up on third downs and making stops throughout the game.
While their play was solid against the Colts, this week’s game versus the Cleveland Browns’ offense presents a whole new challenge.
The Browns come into Nashville with two of the top ten rushers in the NFL in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Both are hard-nosed running backs with speed, power and they both finish runs. Obviously everything begins and ends offensively with these two dynamic running backs for Cleveland. With that being said, how does the Tennessee defense stop them on Sunday?
The first thing they must do is maintain their gap integrity. Usually on any run play, defenders are responsible for gaps. That falls on the linebackers, defensive linemen and also the safeties. Each person must take care of their responsibility, filling each gap.
The more each defender does what they are supposed to do, the less gaps Chubb and Hunt have to run through, forcing them to bounce the football outside. With each running back running laterally to make it outside, the defense could limit the running backs to shorter gains.
Gap integrity is one thing, but that does not matter if you cannot make the tackle. The Titans have been one of the worst tackling teams in the NFL this season. Hunt and Chubb have been known to break a tackle or two. The Titans must fly to the football and wrap up when they get there. The more that they show up and wrap up, the less effective the run game will be.
Stopping the run game is critical this weekend for Tennessee and while plenty may see the Cleveland defense versus the Titans’ offense, they may want to notice the Titans’ defense has a pretty big task on their hands, too. If they are able to stop or stall the Browns’ running game, then that puts the game on the shoulders of Baker Mayfield for Cleveland and that’s just the way the Titans would like it.