Titans - Seahawks Recap
There are a couple of takeaways of note from the Titans last tilt against the Hawks. Here's a couple on my mind:
1. This Titans secondary is the league's most improved unit from last year.
2. Fitzpatrick is not an NFL caliber QB
3. The running game needs to get something going in a hurry.
49ers - Cardinals Recap
Likewise, there are some things to glean from the 9ers last match-up:
1. The 49ers can run the ball with the best of them.
2. They have been playing to the level of their competition so far this year, for good or bad.
3. Their defense is still excellent, even sans Aldon Smith.
Titans - 49ers (LP field, 3.05pm Central)
Another game, another day of Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran put up (if I'm not mistaken) a season-worst Titan grade of -3.9 per PFF. While there are many areas of the offense to pick on for the past two losses, Fitzpatrick has been the conductor of an ugly orchestra, and his continued inability to hit even the most mundane passes has deep-sixed this offense time and time again. With the defense playing like it is, all he needs to do is take care of the ball and make the easy throws when called upon. So far, he has been unable to even do that much.
The offensive line bears blame as well. There is no doubt they have struggled so far in the interior. Turner has been the whipping boy, but Levitre is the biggest disappointment so far, posting a paltry -3.7 per PFF. Warmack didn't far much better with a -2.7. I'm not even going to discuss Turner at this point. However, I am turning over a new leaf on this group this week. New information has recently surfaced regarding CJ and Battle not running plays as designed, and when you do that it is hard to fault the line. Translation = Nobody knows what is going on. The blocking needs to improve, but the backs need desperately to step up. All I want Fitzpatrick doing is handing the ball off and hitting dump-offs. That in itself would yield better results than the offense has shown so far under his direction. The line has a tough task again this week though, matching up against a Justin Smith who is playing very well (+3.3 per PPF) as well as plenty of (underrated) impact players at LB like Brooks and Lemonier. They will have to improve in their efficiency to make a dent and get the chains moving.
The 49ers Secondary is no doubt good, but a shadow of their divisional neighbors up in Seattle. I will look for Wright and Washington to have big games and get open often. Whether the Titans can take advantage of that is another question. I would also expect Delanie Walker to be featured more often as Loggains and co. plan to play a shorter, simpler game and focus on simply moving the sticks.
On defense things are interesting. It's a similar matchup to the Seahawks last week in that both QBs are mobile. While San Fran lacks the firepower on the outside that the Seahawks have, they have a much better offensive line led by Joe Staley (+2.6) and Anthony Davis (+3.1), as well as Mike Iupati, who together have opened plenty of lanes for Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Jurrell Casey and Pitoitua will have their hands full, but I think they will put up good resistance to the run game. If the Titans offense gets even some production going and gives the D a break, I think they'll show up in a big way.
For the second straight week it will be paramount that Zach Brown plays a good game and uses his athleticism to contain the QB. Gray and Williams need to do a better job this week of taking advantage of the DL pressure, and put guys in a position to make plays on Kaepernick when he is flushed out of the pocket. Since Brown may be matched up with the speedy Vernon Davis often, the coaches need to gameplan to put the slower backers like Ayers and McCarthy in position to make plays when things break down.
Do I hear an echo in here? Verner yet again played a great game and still numbers 1st among all CBs league-wide. He posted a +1.7, allowing only 1 catch and defensing 2 more. He and McCourty (+2.2) will need to continue their good play to force Kaepernick to look elsewhere. I am confident that they are up to the task and have, refreshingly, been the last thing Titans fans have needed to worry about this year so far.
Again the safeties put on a good showing with Griffin leading the way with a +2.4 (yes, folks, that is a plus sign) and Pollard with +0.8. Griffin played solid coverage a didn't allow a single catch in his zone last week. Still, he managed to impact the game with a forced fumble. He and Pollard will need to be ever diligent this game with Davis. It will be worth seeing if the coaching staff rotates George Wilson in more often to deal with that threat, and plays more of the 3 safety (Ruby) packages when allowed.
This week I will sum up this section into a simply prayer to the gods of Football to please not curse the Titans anymore this year. Reynaud needs to play smart (harder for him than it sounds I guess) and the coverage unit needs to be careful. McCarthy has been a solid contributor on those units, and with him starting the game, I hope his backup performs up to par. They special teams unit made a big play last week, let's hope another couple of balls take favorable bounces this week in what will likely prove to be the Titans toughest game for the rest of the season until they take on the Broncos on the back end of the schedule.
This will be a hard-fought game, something the Titans have been used to this year. If they can keep Kaepernick contained and generate some running production, I think the LP crowd will be enough get the Titans over the hump. That said, I have little confidence that Fitzpatrick will improve. If the running game isn't fixed, another great defensive day looks sure to be wasted yet again.