Today, we'll look at the play of Zach Mettenberger during the second drive of the third quarter. I'm cherry picking here. The intention is to highlight Mettenberger's potential, and the tools he's working with. No doubt, this game wasn't all positives from Mettenberger, but there's no denying that he flashed good things. I thought this was on display most during this specific drive. So, we'll take a look at every throw on this drive, with the exception of one tipped ball.
1-10-TEN 23 (8:58) Z.Mettenberger pass short right to C.Coffman to TEN 41 for 18 yards (M.Mitchell; W.Allen).
Titans begin the drive in 12 personnel. They pull Warmack, which gives good action at the linebacker level. Coffman is running a crossing pattern, which is the primary the whole way. Mettenberger shows great pocket presence here. Reduces the shoulder as the edge rusher nears, steps up, finds new platform and throws a well placed ball.
2-6-TEN 45 (7:48) Z.Mettenberger pass incomplete deep left to J.Hunter.
Following a 4 yard run by Bishop Sankey, the Titans line up in 13 personnel (3rd "TE" is Stingily). Again, they pull the guard on play action.
While this play ends up as an incompletion, it highlights the high level QB play that Mettenberger shows at times. We haven't seen this kind of nuanced play in years in Tennessee. This isn't to say he's definitely the future, but these details are positive signs.
Coffman is running a seam route here. You could argue that he should have been targeted. Nonetheless, Mett targets Hunter. The interesting thing here is that Hunter is running a go route. Mett quickly identifies that there's a gap between the underneath corner and the safety. The go route isn't open. The back shoulder throw is open, however, and that's what Mettenberger chooses to throw. He's a tick too late with the throw, but that timing will potentially come with more time. Still, the premise is the right one, and really opens things up offensively in situations where the diagrammed play won't "win", but there's still an opportunity to throw to open space.
3-6-TEN 45 (7:41) (Shotgun) Z.Mettenberger pass short right to C.Coffman to PIT 45 for 10 yards (L.Timmons).
Next play, the Titans are in 11 personnel and a shotgun formation. These details are what give excitement. Feeling pressure in the pocket, sliding and delivering.
To play at a high level in the NFL at the QB position, these things are pretty basic. If we were doing Packers film review, these details wouldn't get much attention. They are expected. But, the Titans have been missing these details for years. And, having them as a baseline gives hope that the talent can be translated into something more.
1-20-TEN 45 (6:34) Z.Mettenberger pass short left to J.Hunter ran ob at PIT 19 for 36 yards.
Following a Warmack holding penalty, the Titans line up in 12 personnel. Again, they run play action. There appears to be a trust with Mettenberger and the play action game. The action from under center can be powerful, but you've got to have trust that your QB is comfortable turning his back to the defense, turning his head back around, and trusting exactly what he's seeing.
The throw itself here is a fairly basic one. Hunter is open on the dig. His athleticism provides great YAC.
1-10-PIT 19 (6:01) Z.Mettenberger pass short right to J.Battle to PIT 10 for 9 yards (L.Timmons).
Next play, Titans line up in 21 personnel and motion Jackie Battle out wide. Battle runs a flat route. It's an easy throw and read based on leverage. Still, you've got to make the little throws, too. Good play, which leads to a 9 yard gain.
2-4-PIT 4 (3:53) Z.Mettenberger pass incomplete short middle to K.Wright [J.Harrison].
Following the Battle completion, Mett has a ball tipped at the LOS, and the Titans run the ball 2 times. This leads to the Titans lining up in 21 personnel from the 4 yard line. The Titans run play action (side note: hell of a block by Sankey). Wright and Hunter run crossing routes. This play probably gets open if Wright isn't pushed by the box safety. The push throws off the timing, and eliminates Wright's leverage. Mettenberger smartly throws the ball away.
3-4-PIT 4 (3:48) (Shotgun) Z.Mettenberger pass short right to C.Coffman for 4 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
11 personnel. Titans run a snag concept from a bunch look to the top of the screen. Coffman will run a flag route, Wright runs a flat route, and the third receiver runs a snag route. It creates a triangle, which gives a vertical and horizontal stretch.
What makes this play great is Mettenberger's willingness to stand in the pocket with poise, pull the trigger into a muddy read, and throw the receiver open.
This image is what Mett sees before he cuts the ball loose. Coffman is running the flag, but he's not clearly open. Underneath corner Antwon Blake is working back to the route.
Zach shows a willingness to cut it loose in the mud. Mett throws it where only his receiver can make a play. It's a great throw and catch. A relatively low risk play where only his receiver can make a catch.
For good measure, here's the look from the endzone angle. Mechanically, it's like a well oiled machine. Great balance. The upper body rotates over lower body effortlessly.
I learned my lesson about hyperbole after writing the Chiefs film review. I'll stop short this time of making claims about the future and Our Football Salvation. Still, I have no problems admitting that the things Mettenberger is doing on the football field -the little things -it has me excited. It gives me hope. While I fully expect growing pains and hiccups as Zach continues to make the transition to the NFL level, I also think we may see the game slow down as the season wears on.
I won't go as far as to say Mettenberger is the answer. But, there's no shame in being excited about his future. The details he's putting on tape warrant this enthusiasm.