Entries in Eric Decker (2)

Monday
Dec042017

Mid-Week Take: Titans vs. Texans

 

Another Titans win. Another lackluster performance. However, something very different happened in this game... the crowd at Nissan Stadium had a heartbeat. With the game very much in doubt,  the Texans on the move, and the Titans were putting up a valiant effort, the Titans' fanbase rose to their collective feet, causing such a deafening roar that the Texan offensive linemen were confused into three straight false start penalties. This extra 15 yards wasn't enough to end the drive, but it did show the Titans players and coaches that this once proud fanbase has risen from a long slumber.

Running Game

The running game sputtered, but started like a 1970's Beetle; once it starts the reliability is undeniable. Both Murray and Henry carried the ball 11 times, and were both effective in different ways. Murray had flashes of his slashing runs to gain 66 yards (6.0 yards per carry). Henry had minimal gains until his burst of 75 yards at the end of the game where Mariota pitched him the ball in a misdirection to the left. He ended the day with 109 yards (9.9 yards per carry) and a touchdown, breaking the 100-yard barrier for the 2nd time. Mariota also added 23 yards on 3 carries (7.7 yards per carry) and a touchdown. The running game amassed 198 yards; the highest total for the season. Although this total was perhaps overly bolstered by the 75 yard run at the end of the game, it was more than pleasing to see this part of "Exotic Smashmouth" produce something besides 2 yards and a cloud of dust.

Mistake-Free Mariota

Mariota had his first interception-free game since week 7 vs. Cleveland, and he did show some flashes of running the ball with aggression. However, with the exception of Delanie Walker (and perhaps Eric Decker), he has yet to find a real connection with any of his wide receivers. Corey Davis is coming along, but with all honesty appears to need work on his toughness. Taywan Taylor has great speed and elusiveness, but rumors abound that he is not learning the system like he should. Rishard Matthews is an excellent receiver, but there is nothing that really shows a true connection between him and Mariota. I'm not sure this is something that can be solved this season. Most likely needs to happen is an offseason workout between Mariota and one or more of his receivers. If he is the leader we hope we drafted, this will also be in his mind as well.

Defensive Successes

On the other side of the ball, the Titans' defense continues to improve from the last few seasons. The run defense can only be described as "Madden-esque". I can't remember the last time I saw some many tackles for a loss or little-to-no gain. With 14 tackles from the defensive line and an addition 25 tackles added by the linebackers, the defense continues to deny quality running backs from having a big day. On top of that, the defensive backs are immensely better than they were just last year. As much as it pains me to say this, even Brice McCain has improved to the point of not making game-killing errors. This alone is a minor miracle performed by the Dick LeBeau scheme. The defense isn't great yet, but they are definitely very good. I am a firm believer of the old saying, "Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships." If we keep this up, then the Titans can expect to see the playoffs more often in the future.

Conclusion

This team has yet to put together a complete game by all 3 phases, but maybe this team is built in such a way that as long as two phases are performing the Titans can come away with another win. The one thing that no one can deny is this team has come together to find ways to win where, in the past, they would have folded like a house of cards. This has translated into an excitement in the fanbase that is coming to a crescendo at the right time. Right now, all I can say is #TitanUp!

Wednesday
Oct112017

Mid-Week Take: Titans @ Dolphins

 

The Titans travelled to Miami with high hopes of getting back on track against a Dolphins team that couldn't score. However, the Titans proved that they still had a hangover from the Texans game, losing to the Dolphins 16-10. This game more than any in recent history showed how much the Titans depend upon a healthy Mariota. 

Missing Mariota

Not only did Matt Cassel only produce 141 yards pass on 21 completions, he certainly wasn't a threat to run the ball. When he did appear he might take off and run the Dolphins defense pounced on the aging veteran to prove to him and the rest of us that he is no Mariota. He did throw for an improbable TD to Supernaw, but on another drive fumbled the ball away for a Dolphins TD. I will say that the offensive line had a lackluster performance partly due to the absence of Taylor Lewan for most of the game. However, Cassel looked like he had happy feet most of the game and his arm looked dead on several of his throws. Mariota also brings a quiet confidence to the huddle that exudes to the rest of the offense, and Cassel obviously doesn't contain this attribute.

Penalties

The Titans had an unusual amount of penalties in the game (11-77 yards), with many coming at crucial times. However, I cannot fault TE Jonnu Smith on the offensive pass interference call against him that took a TD off the board. In reviewing the replay there isn't a single person (other than Dolphins' fans) that would say that was OPI. However, this inopportune misfortune was the start of events that created a 14 point swing, with the Dolphins returning the aforementioned fumble for the TD two plays later. Smith was called for 3 penalties for 25 yards, Lewan - 3 for a total of 5 yards (2 were declined), Cassel - 3 delay of game penalties, Supernaw - 2 comical back-to-back false start penalties that ended in a TD catch, and Weems - 2 penalties for 15 yards. This team were not mentally in this game and it showed.

Defensive Success

The defense only allowed 10 points and 3 of those came on a short field when DeMarco Murray fumbled deep in Titans' territory. The defense was able to force 2 turnovers of their own, a fumble recovery by Byard (forced by Jackson) and an interception by Smith. However, the team was only able to gather one sack (Casey), but did harass Cutler for most of the game. They only allowed a total of 178 yards on the day, and seemed to clean up many of the issues from the previous week.

Special Teams

Although my prediction of a special teams touchdown didn't happen, there was plenty of praise to go around for them. Brett Kern is having a Pro Bowl year. He had 10 punts with a net average of 50 yards! Kicking from his own end zone, he had one punt that travelled around 71 yards and pushed the Dolphins back into their side of the field. Also, Ryan Succop had a record setting day, tying the NFL record for most consecutive FGs under 50 yards (46). Unfortunately, the return game didn't have a real chance to get going in this game which could have easily made the difference for the Titans.

Other Positives

 

  • Although Eric Decker only caught 4 balls for 34 yards, he was the leading receiver for the day. He also showed that he is starting to settle into the Titans offense nicely.
  • Kevin Byard's 2 takeaway in as many games proves he has a knack for being near the ball at the right time. I expect to see more takeaways coming his way soon.

 

Conclusion

Although this loss hurts more because it was a very winnable game, the Titans can get going in the right direction again with a win Monday night against a division foe in the Colts. This team has a real chance to catch the Colts at the right time without Andrew Luck and go 2-1 in the AFC South. However, there is one huge question that is still lingering in my mind that just might frame this season... With all the lingering, apparently minor injuries that are keeping players out of the lineup week after week, are the Titans too soft?