Titans-Rams: Film Review

Dilip Vishwanat

A look at a handful of the impactful plays from Sundays game.

This week we'll see a little bit of a change in format. The score, time, down, and distance aren't included. I found that trying to include these items was eating up 50% of the time spent on the post.

Mixed bag this past game, huh? Lot's of ups and downs. While it's always good to come away with a win on the road, I'm sure this staff and team will find there's plenty to work on from this tape. Of course, there are highlights to take from this win as well, and we'll no doubt take a look at those too. But, enough with the pleasantries. On to the review.

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This is the first drive of the second half for the Titans. Titans line up in 11 personnel and spread the field. Entire line downblocks. Levitre pulls and kicks out the EMLOS. Great blocking by the offensive line here, but also poor play by the the box safety and Mike linebacker. As the guard pulls, these guys need to scrape and fill the new gap created to the playside. By reacting late, both get lost in the wash. The safety is late to close and takes a bad angle. The result is a touchdown.

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This play is more demonstrative of things happening in general during the first half, and really thoughout the game. Schwenke, Warmack, and Otto all struggled in pass pro this game. Schwenke, in particular, really gets worked this play.

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Near the end of the second quarter. Titans are looking to march and potentially pick up some points heading into the half. 11 personnel. Titans run essentially a Smash concept to the field side (quick in underneath, instead of a hitch). With the way Cortland Finnegan bails post snap on Wright, Jake may have thought man coverage. More likely, he thought he could just fit the ball in here. The problem isn't really the read, but that he telegraphed it the whole way. He's on Kenny immediately post snap, and never looks off the read. Cortland follows his eyes on the way to an interception.

Opposing players make plays. That's important to consider, and Cortland does make a good play here. That said, this can't happen. A good team turns this into points. Amazingly, the Rams didn't even get 3 here. With the game as close as it was in this contest, even three points may have changed the complexion of the game. Jake has been solid with minimizing turnovers to date, so this is certainly not a recurring problem. Situationally, these sort of risk will need to be avoided moving forward, though.

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We didn't see much pistol against the Rams, but it was shown a couple of times. I thought it did a great job of neutralizing the pass rush in the play above. The great thing about the pistol is that you can get the downhill action of running under center, but still limit the footwork like in the shotgun. Note the action the run fake creates at the linebacker level. This action creates a gigantic void for Jake to throw into as Wright runs a crossing route for a huge gain. The Titans would be wise to mix in this wrinkle a little more, especially against teams with aggressive ends.

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Rams line up in 21 personnel here. We match with our base 4-3. Basic Power play here. Full back is going to lead and kickout the EMLOS. Pulling guard pulls through the hole created between FB and TE (or T). RB runs to daylight.

So, how do you defend power? The linebackers need to key on the pulling guard. Find where the pulling interior lineman is going, and it will generally tell you where the play is headed. (Side note: This is what makes play action with a pulling lineman so powerful.) Remember, a player is going to carry two gaps with him, one on either side. So, to really combat the play, the pulling blocker needs to be met with two players.  Essentially, the backside LB needs to scrape and fill the first gap he finds on the other side of the defensive tackle. (Great article on LB keys here.)

The primary problem here is Ayers. He's late to scrape, and when he does get moving he's out of control and crosses the face of the runningback. Instead of fitting the gap to the right side of the pulling guard, the Tight End uses Ayers own momentum and blocks him out of he play.

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Titans line up in 21 personnel with Greene in the backfield. This play wasn't a game changer, nor was this drive. I just thought this was great execution from our line, and a microcosm of the change up Greene can bring in the run game. Johnson had a great game, but he's not going to routinely make these kinds of runs between the tackles. I think that sustaining running style will prove important to this team down the stretch.

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Titans are in 22 personnel here, and again call a zone run. Solid blocking by the linemen, and Taylor Thompson. That's not what caught my eye. CJ cuts this back, and the defense has him accounted for, at least schematically. Problem is that our old friend Cortland Finnegan has collapsed, and given up his force responsibilities. Johnson burns him to the edge on his way to a huge gain.

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The big CJ run sets up this play above. 11 personnel. Spread look. Just a great play by Jake. Both DTs are aligned as 3 techs here and there's no Mike linebacker. The play develops, leaving the entire middle of the field wide open. Jake's athleticism takes care of the rest.

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Following the Titans touchdown, the Rams get he ball back down 21-14. This is their second play of that drive. The run it through the B gap, which you'll note appears to be McCarthy's pre-snap. Hard to say what happens next, but McCarthy hesitates at the point of attack and actually shifts direction. By the time Stacy reaches him, he's out of position. Not horribly, but if this is read right he should be making an easy downhill tackle. Instead, Stacy breaks the tackle on his way to a huge gain. A few plays later, the Rams score on a Cook touchdown, tying the game 21-21.

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Now, the Titans get the ball back. Tie ball game. 6:15 left on the clock. The play above is the first play of the drive.

I remember watching this live and thinking - man, that's an NFL throw. And, now as I've watched it 10 times on repeat, yeah, that's an NFL throw. It's thrown in rhythm, with anticipation, into a window, hits his receiver in stride, and allows his playmaker to make plays. He makes this throw, and I'm feeling great about things.

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And, then two plays later this happens. 12 Personnel. We fake the run. Nate and Wright both run deep crossing routes. If you're thinking this is the play where Nate was looking for a penalty, then you're correct. I expected more of an obvious foul on the coaches tape, but it's really just a quick jersey grab as he gets into his break. And, it's early enough that it shouldn't influence the timing given that this turns into a "sight" throw.

The problem is two fold:

1. Warmack gives up terrible pressure here. If he doesn't give up this pressure, then this misfire doesn't happen.

2. Jake takes is hitching forward when it's not necessary. The pocket is clean enough if he just hitches one time. At a minimum, it makes setting his feet easier as he's not creating momentum into the defensive tackle.

No less, these things did happen. The pressure arrives and Jake can't step into the throw. The ball sails, and the safety makes an easy play.

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Thankfully, we're not forced to languish over this mistake. The Rams get the ball back, and then Jurrell Casey happens.

Titans bring 5 man pressure with an E-T Stunt. Not only does Casey absolutely embarrass the right guard, but he has the presence to strip the ball. The Titans get the ball back in the Redzone.

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And, on the next play, we execute what might be my favorite play of the season thus far.

To date, we've really struggled with the zone game. Almost to the point where running it just seemed like a wasted play at times. CJ looked out of place. The interior of the line was getting blown up routinely. It was just a mess. So, for us to essentially win the game on a basic zone play, with 21 personnel, well, it was great to see.

We run outside zone here. Really, with the exception of Schwenke, this entire play is blocked to perfection. CJ doesn't make an unnecessary cut back. He presses the hole, and trusts his blockers. Mooney delivers an all star block at the point of attack. And, Nate sweetens the deal, by sealing off the final defender, Cortland Finnegan, to finish the play.

There are good and bad things to take from this game. A win here was important, though. And, wins on the road in the NFL should never be taken lightly, regardless of opponent. Even if there were some problems that need fixing, it's much easier to build on things after a win, than to regroup following a loss.

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