By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Over the course of the last 10 games, NFL quarterback Ryan Tannehill has done quite a bit to rewrite the story of Ryan Tannehill, NFL quarterback.READ MORE: 'It Was My Dream': Bill Shields Retires After 41 Years At WBZ
Against all odds, he’s been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks since he took the starting job from Marcus Mariota and helped turn the Titans’ season around, and he’s a significant reason why the Titans will be entering Saturday night’s playoff game in Foxboro with a whole lot of confidence.
But if the Titans are to really make that matter and deliver an upset playoff victory, Tannehill’s going to have to flip one more script. And this one’s a doozy.
He’s going to have to figure out how to play at Gillette Stadium.
Having been in the AFC East for the first six seasons (over seven years) of his career, Tannehill is no stranger to playing at Gillette Stadium. He’s played there six times, and he’s yet to win a game. In half of those games, Tannehill’s offense was held to seven points or fewer, with Tannehill’s offenses failing to put points on the board twice.
The individual stats aren’t great. Overall, when playing at Gillette Stadium, Tannehill has completed 142 of his 233 passes (60.9 percent) for 1,554 yards, which comes out to 259 yards per game and 6.7 yards per attempt. The completion rate and yardage stats aren’t too bad, all things considered.
But he’s also thrown five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s thrown at least one interception in every game he’s played in Foxboro, throwing two interceptions for four straight games in New England from 2013-16. And he’s been held without a touchdown pass in three of his six starts.
He’s also taken 24 sacks in those six games, though 17 of those came as a young QB in his first three years. He’s fumbled six times, losing the ball three times.
Tannehill’s Miami offenses averaged 11.3 points per game in those six trips to Gillette, topping 17 points just once. The average score was 34-11. Technically speaking, the closest Tannehill came to winning in New England came in 2016, when the Dolphins lost 31-24. That was a game, though, which the Patriots led 31-3 midway through the third quarter. In a game where Jimmy Garoppolo was on fire before getting hurt, the Patriots let off the gas late, allowing Tannehill to lead a comeback, but the Dolphins’ final drive ended with a pick in the end zone:
After that, Tannehill got one more start in New England. It came in Week 4 of the 2018 season, and it was grisly. He went 11-for-20 for just 100 yards with no touchdowns and one interception while taking two sacks and losing a fumble. Trailing 38-0 in the fourth quarter, Tannehill was benched at the end of the blowout loss for Brock Osweiler, who promptly led a touchdown drive.READ MORE: COVID Vaccine Booster Shots Ready To Go For Those Eligible In Massachusetts
Repeating, for effect: After failing to lead the Dolphins to any points, Tannehill was benched. For Brock Osweiler. Who then went 4-for-5 for 35 yards and a touchdown.
That was a game that included Tannehill looking like this:
It was a similar look to Tannehill’s Week 8 visit to Foxboro in 2015, which took place on national TV on Thursday Night Football. That night, this happened:
All told, Gillette Stadium has been a house of horrors for Tannehill. In that stadium, he has a 69.9 passer rating, and with six chances, he’s kept his team competitive just once. Long before the Patriots’ defense took on the “Boogeymen” moniker, Tannehill had encountered plenty of unfriendly ghosts that resided inside of Gillette Stadium.
Of course, the comparison of the offenses from the Dolphins from 2012-18 to the offense of the Titans in 2019 doesn’t quite lead to an apples-to-apples situation. At the same time, though, it’s worth noting that during those six trips to Gillette, Tannehill was not facing a defense quite like the one that the 2019 Patriots will be carrying into Saturday night’s matchup. This year, the Patriots rank first in both yards and points allowed. From 2012-18, they ranked anywhere from first to 10th in points allowed, and anywhere from eighth to 26th in yards allowed. (The Patriots ranked 29th in yards allowed in 2017, but Tannehill missed that season due to a torn ACL.)
Despite a sloppy end to the season, the Patriots still finished the year with the best third-down defense, and they finished first in the league with 25 interceptions — five more than any other team. They ranked tied for seventh in the NFL with 47 sacks, and they finished first by a massive margin in opponents’ passer rating. (The Patriots allowed opposing QBs to post a 62.8 passer rating. The Ravens ranked second, at 77.5. The gap between the No. 1 and No. 2 spots was greater than the gap between the No. 2 and No. 20 spots.) In posting his tremendous numbers this year, Tannehill faced just one defense that ranked in the top 12 in opponents’ passer rating. He aced that one test, beating the Chiefs with both his arm and his legs, but he still didn’t face a defense that compares in any way to that of the Patriots.
Tannehill was asked Tuesday if playing in Foxboro is different than playing in any other road stadium. Tannehill downplayed the question.
“I mean I don’t know if there is a difference,” Tannehill answered. “Obviously it’s a place that they’ve played well at in the past. But at the end of the day, it’s football. It’s a road environment, it’s gonna be loud, and we have to be ready to go.”
As far as playoff history, there is none, as Saturday will mark Tannehill’s first taste of playoff football. With 22 touchdowns and just six picks this season, with a 7-3 record, with a 70.3 completion rate, with a league-best 9.6 yards per attempt and 117.5 passer rating, the 31-year-old Tannehill has already done a tremendous job this year of shifting perceptions about what kind of quarterback he is. Ultimately, though, that progress will be rendered mostly meaningless if he can’t solve whatever has plagued him whenever he’s played football in the state of Massachusetts.MORE NEWS: Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Coming?