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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
As much as I feel like the game against the Seahawks was an awakening for this organization, I equally feel like this game against the Texans was a huge step back. This type of game is hard not to sound the doom and gloom, but all is not lost. Yes, the Titans were beaten by over 40 points. Yes, it was against a divisional opponent. Yes, the defense played one of their worst game in several years. Yes, there didn't seem to be any adjustments during the game as it got further and further out of hand. However, there are 12 games left and they are still tied for 1st place in the division.
The Titans, once again, came off another emotional win, but ran into a juggernaut offense with DeSean Watson at the helm. The Titans' offense also must have thought that they needed to get all their turnovers for the season in this game. With 4 interceptions and one fumble, there was no way for the offense to mount any serious competition in the scoring department.
Marcus Mariota had a rough day passing the ball (6 comp 10 attempts 96 yards 2 int). However, he had a good day running the ball (4 att 39 yards 2 TD). On the flip side of that, he injured his hamstring on the second TD run (and might have taken himself out for the next week or two.) This led to the complete breakdown of the Titans offense with the inability of Matt Cassell to come in and mount any sort of comeback (much less any offense) . In fact, Cassell accounted for 3 of the 5 Titans' turnovers. Mariota also still struggled with throwing to his right, and reverted back to lofting the ball too much on short-to-medium routes. Even with all these problems, and for a game where nothing seem to go right, Mariota remained one of the few bright spots.
Okay, so WTF was going on here? There was so few positive plays that it's almost not worth mentioning. However, I will nonetheless. Kevin Byard's interception was a long time coming, and proves that he is still progressing in this defense. The rest of the DBs were completely helpless. Why was Brice McCain covering DeAndre Hopkins when he couldn't cover their 4th WR much less Hopkins. Why were every Texans WR allowed to run free without being hand-checked at the line of scrimmage? Why did the DBs have so much trouble communicating during the Texans no-huddle offense? How did so many TEs and RBs roam free in the flats, allowing Watson to have a field day? Finally, how were the Titans' defensive coaching staff completely outwitted at every turn? These questions need to be solved before this Sunday's game against the Dolphins.
Speaking of poor decisions by the Titans' defensive coaches, the coaching staff as a whole let down this team. Offensively, the play calling seemed unimaginative for the most part and down right overly predictable in the first half of the game. The 1st quarter the Titans went 3-and-out on 3 straight drives. In the 2nd quarter the Titans woke up, scoring 2 TDs, but were already behind by 3 TDs at the start of the quarter. The game-plan at this point was out the window, and it seemed that the coaches weren't prepared to handle this scenario. Coming out from halftime, the Titans weren't ready to answer the call and reverted back to their 1st quarter performance. The 4th quarter ended up being a complete debacle, rounding out an utter breakdown of a poorly planned and poorly executed game plan.
Another Slow Start
The Titans had another game where their opening quarter was little more than an exercise in futility. They have only scored 10 points in the 1st quarter in 4 games with 0 points in the last 2 games. The Titans have proven that they can come back, but I would rather play with the lead instead of constantly counting on 2nd half heroics.
- Delanie Walker continues to prove that he is an elite TE. He had crucial catches in the game to give the team glimmers of hope.
- Brett Kern is having a Pro Bowl type season. He average 48.4 yards on 5 punts.
- Rishard Matthews makes some of the best catches on this team. He aggressively attaches the ball, high-pointing it better than this team has seen in the last 5 years. I see him being a bigger part of this offense once Corey Davis returns to take off some of the heat.
The Titans have the talent to win, but need better game plans and execution if they expect to make the playoffs this season. With the upcoming schedule, there is real potential to be 5-2 at the bye week. Facing the Dolphins away (1-2), Colts at home (1-3), and Browns away (0-4) is not as easy as it seems. So, don't go crazy Titans' fans. However, this might be our best shot in many seasons to pull away from the pack.