Now that the excitement has died down over the "payback" win over the Jags, I can take a more honest approach to what I think went right and what really looks like it needs some work.
After the Titans and Jaguars opening weekends, the Titans faithful were worried how their team would fair against this Jags defense that racked up 10 sacks against the Texans. Specifically how the Titans' offensive line could slow down Calais Campbell after his 4 sack performance. Also, in the opening weekend the Titans faced, what many thought, was a poor-to-mediocre defense in the Raiders, and were only able to put up 16 points with an anemic running game and a passing game that seem to be still working out the preseason kinks. Yet the fan-base new they could count on one person to soothe the Titans' opening game woes... Blake Bortles.
Blake Bortles, Mr. Turnover
Bortles was responsible for 3 Jaguars turnovers, but that only led to 2 Titans' field goals. However, that really fired up the Tennessee defense that was able to hold rookie RB Leonard Fornette to 40 yards on 14 carries and a meaningless 4th quarter TD. It seems as though every time this Jaguars team starts to get confidence, Blake Bortles is able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and this past Sunday was no different. Bortles had 223 yards on 20 completions out of 34 attempts and 1 TD with those 2 interceptions. However, once again, many of these yards and the TD came later in the game when the outcome was all but decided.
The rookie TE for the Titans had his first TD of his young career on the first drive in the 4th quarter. With a convoy of offensive linemen he was all but untouched for a 32 yard screen pass that looked more like a well-blocked punt return than an offensive play. However, there were negatives in the game for the rookie too. On the only blemish that appeared on Mariota's stat line, Smith appeared to overrun a route that led to the interception. Mariota didn't throw a great ball, but Smith was a major contributor to the turnover. Smith came away with 30 yards on 2 receptions and the TD. Congrats Rook!
Another rookie that seems to get better with every snap is CB Adoree Jackson. The return game has missed even the hint of excitement until the addition of Jackson. His 46 yard punt return in the middle of the 3rd quarter seemed to completely and permanently move the momentum in the favor of the Titans. Not only did he awaken the special teams beast, but his DB play has improved. He is by no means perfect in his coverage, but he is showing that he is a sure tackler. I also feel like once he becomes more comfortable with the defense that he will begin to play more aggressively and come away with some interceptions.
Henry showed us all that he can not only be a temporary fill-in for Murray, but left many fans wondering if now is the time for him to be the primary running back. I would encourage those people to calm down and remember that these two backs compliment each other in a way that few one-two punches do. With Murray out this does limit the blocking schemes of the offensive line. Murray is more of a cut-back runner and loves to run between the tackles. However, Henry is either all downhill or a bounce runner that looks to push it to one sideline or the other. That being said he had a magnificent game, and also the best game of his career so far. Henry carried the ball 14 times for 92 yards and a touchdown.
- DB Curtis Riley got the first interception of his career off a tipped pass in the second quarter.
- S Da'Norris Searcy also was able to pluck an interception off another tipped pass in the 3rd quarter
- Taywan Taylor had a beautiful 42 yard reception with a graceful, diving catch that moved the Titans into the Red Zone.
- Jalston Fowler doesn't get talked about enough for his blocking, but he also had a TD on a 3 yard dive to seal the deal for the Titans in the 4th quarter.
- Delanie Walker is quietly becoming the most important TE in the league. I can see where some might just say "Gronk who?" in the near future.
The Titans came out with a slow start mainly due to the fact they had players that were trying to push themselves through nagging injuries. Once Murray and Davis took a seat and Mariota got into his groove, the offense came together nicely and put the Jags away. This game was not even close in the second half and even though the Jags scored 16, this was in desperation only while the Titans' defense was playing off a little. I know it's early in the season, but the Titans now sit atop the standings (taking the tie-breakers into account) and can distance themselves from the rest of the AFC South in the next 3 games. Now is the time for the coaching staff and players to step on the neck of a division that seems in complete disarray.