Titans - Raiders: A Review

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans came away with one they desperately needed yesterday. What looked like a sure "W" at the beginning of the season turned into a crucial match-up for the last wildcard spot through 12 weeks.

Offense

We'll start off this review with the guy who deserves the most credit. Fitzpatrick has certainly been Fitzmagic since taking over for Jake in the Jags game. He shredded the Raiders with accurate passes and made no errors of note. His rapport with Wright, Walker, and now Hunter as well, has been fun to watch. Nate Washington also made some important grabs early as well after being quiet the past few weeks. I have been more critical of the ex-Bill QB than most, but credit where credit's due, he has been playing outstanding football, which has been timely since the defense has stopped being good and the running game has continued to falter.

As mentioned, Wright and Hunter are going to be fun players to watch for a long time. Wright has been dominant this year, and uncoverable at times. His agility and quickness are outstanding, and he flashed that yet again against the Raiders. Hunter really had a coming out party on Sunday as well. His 54 yard TD was something that we haven't seen from him; open field ball skills. Not only did Hunter put the moves on two Raider defenders, his effortless gallop down the sidelines showcased just how fast he is. If he can continue to develop and get given the opportunities the Titans could have a special talent on their hands...for real this time. With that in mind, Britt should never even set foot on the field. How the coaching staff is allowing him to get out there and continually set the offense back with bad drops is beyond me.

The running game looked anemic as ever against the Raiders. The line couldn't block, CJ couldn't find the holes (when they were there), and the play-calling was unimaginative. There's not much else to say about it. The entire line struggled with holding calls all day long, and it allowed the Raiders to hang around in the first half despite being outpaced offensively and in the turnover department. Warmack was very poor against the pass as has been the problem, and it took Fitz doing his best Vick impression to get out of trouble multiple times. I would have loved to see what Fitz could have done had his protection been even just decent.

Defense

The pass rush that sparked some early season wins is now MIA. Morgan and Pitoitua are not getting around the edge successfully as they were earlier in the year, and it showed. McGloin looked as comfortable as me watching from my couch, and that is simply pathetic. Casey had some nice push a few times, but a defense can't rely on interior pressure EVERY time they want a sack. This is especially disappointing because the coverage down the field was pretty good all day.

One of the reasons McGloin was so comfortable is this cast of LBs that are playing like scrubs at this point. This unit should have been the heart of this defense, but instead they are the biggest thing holding it back. Zach Brown, Akeem Ayers, and Colin McCarthy have been making fundamental errors, especially against the run, and it's forcing Pollard and Griffin to clean up a lot of plays on the ground. Fokou wasn't a ton better either. Beyond this, for whatever reason; be it coaching, mental errors, etc, but running backs have free reign to go out and run quick dump-offs against the Titans, and this has been an ever increasing problem this year. The Colts make heavy use of that style of attack, so Gray and Williams need to do what needs to be done to correct the issue. It really makes the pass rush and the secondary coverage irrelevant when offenses can simply steal easy catch-and-runs as they have been.

Verner and McCourty were solid as ever. McCourty in particular played a fantastic game, breaking up more than a couple of contested passes and blanketing his side of the field. Griffin and Pollard have been laying the wood of late, and while Griffin will definitely be fined for his blow early on, it is encouraging to see him play with a physical attitude. That is a good thing, because he will need to keep up with that if this linebacker corps can't turn things around. When all was said and done though, the Titans still only allowed a 30% conversion rate on 3rd down.

Special Teams

Wylie has started two games as a returner, and made two big mistakes. Luckily he wasn't punished for it in this one, but it doesn't stop me from cringing every time he takes the ball out of the endzone. The blocked punt highlighted what has been an issue this year in the punting game. Kern had a very poor game last week, and against the Raiders he didn't get much help from his coverage unit. He did have a couple of well placed punts however, so it wasn't all bad.

Summary

The Titans won one they should have, and it is sad that this surprises me at this juncture. That said, they are still miraculously in the thick of the playoff hunt due to an inexplicably mediocre (or ultra competitive?) AFC. Fitzpatrick inspires plenty of confidence at this point, and if he can continue to play up to his recent form, the Titans will have a shot in most games. Another number of note, TOP. The Titans dominated with 35.48 minutes of possession despite having little to no success on the ground. The defense has a lot to prove in the weeks to come though, and I think it will be on their shoulders whether or not this team sniffs post-season play for the first time since 2008.

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