Tennessee Titans Random Thoughts, Vol.I

Wesley Hitt

Do teams give up on their game plans too early? The Titans sure did in the first half of last year. When is too soon to start airing it out?

In order to help get through these tenuous summer months, I am going to try out an occasional series on random thoughts associated with the Titans or the NFL in general. These won't be necessarily current or even news worthy topics associated with the team, but rather gleanings and remembrances of the game in general.

This weeks random thought has to do with the philosophy of what to do when you get down early in a game. A lot of time and effort goes into game planning for your opponent every week. You also have to be able to adapt to the game conditions and adjust to whatever the other team may be doing different, weather, and other circumstances. The issue is that I feel NFL coaches are too quick to abandon the game plan when down early in a game.

This especially happened with the Titans early last season, but I find it to be a common thread in the NFL in general. I'll be the first to admit that NFL coaches and coordinators know a whole lot more than me about what they are doing, but I get the general feeling they begin racing the clock a bit too early. It's as if a 14 point deficit in the first quarter causes them to hit the panic button.

Usually when a team gets down big that quickly, it's due to a special teams play and/or turnover combined with a regular offensive drive. If the team playing from behind just played out the game with their normal game plan, they would have the same type of chance at those plays during the rest of the game.

For a quick reference I looked up a few of the Titans first games last year and counted their rush attempts in relation to score and time left in the game.

Patriots

Down 14-3 with 11:07 left in the first quarter. The Titans only ran 6 times after that for the rest of the game.

Chargers

Down 14-0 in first quarter. Only had 5 designed run plays in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter combined.

Vikings

Only 8 carries in the second half after going down 13-0 in the first half.

Without getting into the attempts=production debate, or the TOP debate, on the surface this is way too unbalanced of an approach. I believe that Chris Palmer panicked at the onset of these situations and decided to air it out the rest of the way, turning the offense one dimensional. Games that may have been kept reasonable then got out of hand.

Let's play the hypothetical. Let's say your strength is the run game, or at least a balanced attack. You should have a much higher chance of scoring by sticking to your teams strengths than simply racing the clock. When down by 17 in the early second you methodically work your way down the field and score. Yes you're still down by two scores, and yes you ate 7 minutes off the clock. But who cares. I would rather be down by 10, have a rested defense and half a football game left to go, than down by 20 with 5 minutes left in the second quarter.

This issue is relevant now due to the Titans moving to a run first offense (allegedly). Let's assume for this argument that the running game truly becomes a strength of the team. I am sure they will try and have a decent passing game as well that isn't used as a "last resort". A bad bounce here and there and a special teams score can get a team down 14-17 points quick. If this happens, I would hate for the Titans to throw out the game plan and just attempt to pass on every down for the rest of the game. Use your game plan and methodically work through it. If you find yourself down by the same amount in the third quarter, then you can panic.

I'm not suggesting that continuing to run the ball would have changed the outcome of the games above, and this is not something that I only see with the Titans. Without compiling and streaming through endless piles of data, what are your thoughts?

Anyone else notice the same thing or feel the same way?

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