The 6-3 Titans travelled to Pittsburgh for Thursday Night Football to face the 7-2 Steelers in a battle of divisional 1st place teams, in hopes that they can prove to the rest of the nation that they are ready to be taken seriously. However, the Titans created more mistakes than successes. In fact, at times, they appeared to fill this game with more mistakes than most teams have in 5 games.
Mariota was 22 completions of 33 attempts for 306 yards and 1 TD. These are great numbers... except he also threw a total of 4 interceptions. He also only 5 yards on 5 carries (with a TD) and was sacked 5 times. This was by far the worst performance of Mariota's young career. Although he willing took full responsibility for all 4 of the miscues, there is sufficient evidence that only one of those was completely his fault. Mariota already has a tendency to throw high in most cases, overthrew Rishard Matthews by 10 yards (at least). This might be attributed to his excitement for playing on the big stage, but if he wants to be considered at the upper levels he must get over these nerves.
A Tale of Two Halves
The first half it seemed as though the Titans offense didn't get off the bus. For their first drive of the game Mariota throws an interception. That is followed up with a 3-and-out, a Mariota run for a TD, a blocked FG, another 3-and-out, another Mariota interception, and finishes off the half with yet another 3-and-out. This offensive fiasco was topped off with an almost inept running game with 42 total yards rushing. (Adoree Jackson: 5 yds, DeMarco Murray: 3 yds, Marcus Mariota: 7 yds, and Derrick Henry: 32 yds). Fortunately, the offense got (slightly) better in the 2nd half.
Unfortunately, the defense didn't come out of the locker room for the second half, allowing 24 points (17 in the 4th quarter alone). The pass defense was particularly poor allowing all 3 Pittsburgh TDs to be scored by Roethlisberger passes (2 to Brown and 1 to Hubbard). As a Titans' fan we have seen the secondary allow many strong performance by opposing QBs, but Roethlisberger's numbers were especially damaging on the night; 30 completions on 45 attempts for 299 yards and 4 TDs. Yes, both Roethlisberger and Brown are top level in their positions, but if the Titans hope to change the minds of the football watching nation, they must step up and perform on the national stage. Obviously this was not the time for this team to make the breakthrough.
Let's be honest here, the Titans got punched in the mouth by the Steelers and couldn't get off the mat to respond. This is what we've seen from the team in previous seasons, and they appeared to fall back on previous ways. This team struggles to keep every player in the game plan. Even according to Coach Mularkey, they there are players that don't "trust" the plan. If the plan is sound, good teams stick to the plan. Great teams stick to the plan especially when they are losing. However, this team tends to scatter in random directions when things are not going their way. In my opinion, this is when the leaders on your team need to step up and help guide everyone back into the fold. This team can still not only make the playoffs, but win a playoff game, but playing within the plan is of the utmost importance.
- Rishard Matthews continues to be an unheralded positive addition to this team. He had 5 catches for 113 yards and 1 TD. If the rest of the WRs can get on the right page, then this passing game would be one of the best in the league.
- Adoree Jackson is quickly becoming one of my favorite players on the team (and not on special teams). He 11 tackles and a forced fumble. He is by far the best thing that has come out of this rookie class.
- Even with the uncharacteristic drop in the end zone, Delanie Walker continues to put up All-Pro numbers. He had 6 catches for 92 yards against the Steelers.
Here is another bit of honesty. Although in the podcast I picked a Titans victory (24-23), I counted this game as a loss at the beginning of the season. Yes, this loss was embarrassing because it was on prime time, but if I look at the rest of the season I believe there is a real reason to be hopeful. I think this team can go 10-6 at minimum, and a good chance to go 11-5. Unfortunately, the biggest competition is the Jaguars, and they have a powder-puff schedule for the remainder of the season. It might just come down the week 17 when the Jags come into Nashville to face our beloved Titans.