We'll start with the good news I suppose.
Yet again, this Titans defense was outstanding. They were solid in the tackling department (Except for one awful mistake by Griffin) and played close coverage throughout the game. There is one area I will fault them on in this game, and that is capitalizing on mistakes by the offense. Alex Smith was inaccurate for most of the day, and gave them plenty of chances at interceptions. Pollard came through when he got his opportunity, but there were at least two or three others left on the field, notably an ATV pick that would have drastically changed the game.
The front four generated some good pressure, but not enough. They also got gashed in the running game (something I'd love to see the Titans Oline be able to do for once) too often. When all is said and done though, the defense can only be asked to do so much. When you're offense starts the game with multiple three-and-outs, you know it's going to be a long day as a defender. We can all point to the Fokou play, which was in my mind, certainly well in bounds and not a flagrant or unnecessarily aggressive play, but the fact remains that this team should never have been in that position to begin with. Even simply competent offensive play would have seen this game sealed for the home team.
Zach Brown played well, and Jurrell Casey yet again caused the opposing team some headaches in the trenches. As a silver lining, you have to be excited at the direction of this defense as a whole. It is littered with young emerging players who are stepping up their game and putting on a good show week in week out. They are no doubt a work in progress, but the reality is that this unit is an impressive group, and despite Sunday's loss, they are starting to garner some respect throughout league and media circles.
Here is where it gets ugly. Any of my confidence in Fitzpatrick being a capable backup were quickly erased Sunday. He was off on his timing routes, erratic in his pocket awareness, and seems to be incapable of consistently getting the ball to underneath players despite them being open. This game made me hate the Jets, simply put. Because with Locker, and to no discredit to Kansas City, this would have likely been a comfortable win with him under center. Where Fitz was trying to force the ball into tight windows down the field, Locker has shown so far this year that he will make the good decisions and give his guys a chance to make things happen after the catch. Fitzpatrick's putrid start coupled with his attempts at being Peyton Manning in the 4th (even when he didn't need to be) are what ultimately sunk this team. Hats off to any visiting APers, you were right about this guy, and not to be a nega-noles, but the Titans will be lucky to win a game with him under center, especially considering the elevated level of competition on the near horizon.
Now we get to the really ugly part. In the offseason, Bud Adams backed up the Brinks truck to upgrade this offensive line. While at tackle it has been business as usual, the results have simply not been there in the interior. We can harp on Turner's struggles all day, and I feel I have done my fair share in pointing out how he has aided in neutering this running game, but he is not alone. Even Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack have been struggling out there to generate push, and it has torpedoed the game-day strategy of this team from week 1. You can't be a run-first offense if you can't execute simple running plays with any sliver of consistency. I have an understanding as far as Chance goes, he is a rookie and has played against some fearsome fronts so far, but I am more disappointed in Levitre than anyone at present. He should be taking this line to the next level, but his inability to create room in the running game coupled with the coaches unwillingness to run outside the tackles has made this aspect of the Titan's game predictable and easily-tackled by opposing DCs. If the running game doesn't show improvement before the bye, I would hope the coaches would re-adjust their game plan. Locker is more than capable to taking on an increased load and the constant ineffective nature of the running game has hurt this team more than helped it as expected. I understand not wanting to put more on Locker, but at this point, and until the run game is remedied, I think that a more aerial based attack will give us a better chance of winning games. I want this team to be run-first, I want them to be physical, probably more than most do, but you can't keep plugging holes on a sinking ship.
The offense also struggled royally in goal-to-go situations. How hard it is to score from the 1/2 yard line? I blame a mixture of poor offensive play-calling and a lack of execution on the offensive line for that. If this team punches it in at the end of the first half, we aren't having this conversation right now. I would also bemoan the idea to forgo the field goal, but apparently the Titans coaches already knew that Bironas was ready to shank one.
On the bright side, Kendall Wright continues to grow. He and Nate Washington are a legitimate one-two punch at WR, and I am really looking forward to this corps going forward with Hunter in the wings as well. CJ also flashed what he can do when given space. You'd really hope the coaches watch that play more during the week and realize what a threat he can be if given the chance.
Can I seriously go two weeks in a row without ranting about the Titans special teams unit? This week we can spare Reynaud the criticisms temporarily to complain about a play that should never have happened and for the second time in this young season, put the Titans behind the 8-ball early. It's tough enough to win games in this league without spotting your opponent a touchdown. While you have to applaud the offense for turning it around (somewhat) early in the second half, this was yet another case where the special teams unit hurt the team. Add in a missed field goal and you can go ahead and call it an F-grade performance.
Congrats on your win KC, you were the better team on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Titans have a lot to work on. Without the running game clicking, Fitzpatrick is really unable to produce on his own. While you have to be comfortable with the talent level around him as far as the receivers go, its just not enough. The Titans have plenty to fix to clean up their mistakes, and maybe get some easier underneath routes going for Fitzpatrick, if they are going to have any chance of winning games in Locker's absence. While all is not doom and gloom in Titans land and we certainly lost to a pretty good team Sunday, you have to be disappointed with the offensive execution, and it doesn't lend confidence to fans who'll watch this team head into the toughest stretch of games on the schedule.
Get well soon Jake, we need you.