Tennessee feels more snake-bitten by the day. The team came out swinging, and seemed to exhaust itself after the first few slugs.
We'll start with the defense in this recap, since they were the ones on the field all day long. The unit came out strong, holding the Ravens at bay in both phases. Jurrell Casey generated pressure inside, and Avery Williamson was omnipresent against both the run and pass. Williamson was utilized as a blitzer from the ILB spot more than usual, and it paid dividends early on. The Ravens didn't have a first down until part way through the 2nd quarter, and had less than 20 yards to their name after 15 minutes of play. Strong starts by Ropati Pitoitua and Derrick Morgan also helped the team to a quick lead.
Then the ugly. With the team's offense stalling constantly throughout the rest of the game, the Titans defense was thrown to the wolves. The pass rush that was evident early on waned, and Flacco was able to find some targets. In particular, Blidi Wreh-Wilson was picked on in a variety of ways, both on the quick slants and when in single coverage down the field.
The run defense similarly suffered. While they were able to corral Justin Forsett for most of the day, the unit was exposed when he was sent out wide. A lack of speed from the Titans OLB's, especially from Kamerion Wimbley, deep-sixed the efforts of the entire defense. The Ravens took full advantage of that throughout the rest of the game. No matter how well the defense was prepared for what Baltimore was running, they were left hung out to dry by an offense who couldn't get anything going...
Like a classic heavy weight fighter, the Titans seemed t put all their strength into the first few swings. Their first drive was great to see, with the team running the ball effectively behind the efforts of Bishop Sankey and some precise passing from Mettenberger. Once at the goal line, the decision was made to sub in Shonn Greene, the short yardage "expert". His lost fumble cost the Titans the chance to capitalize on their fast start. After getting the ball back following an impressive forced three-and-out by the defense, the Titans offense repeated their success, with Zach Mettenberger finding his marks all the way down the field. Some excellently placed sideline passes to Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, and Justin Hunter confounded the Ravens defense. A clever shovel pass to Leon Washington gave the Titans seven.
The same effort could not be found the rest of the way. The offensive line broke down, allowing Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil to hunt down Mettenberger. The latter of the two had a field day abusing Michael Oher (who would have thought?). Mettenberger's lack of mobility was badly exposed, and his tendency to hold the ball too long was equally evident. While these things can be corrected, they do reveal his lack of experience at this juncture. With no open holes for the running game, Mettenberger was unable to carry the team, resulting in a slew of three and out's that forced the defense into an impossible situation.
Kendall Wright and co. were unable to find open spaces down the stretch as well, and when Delanie Walker was knocked out the game with what was an obvious high hit, the Titans were left devoid of open targets. The no-call on the Walker hit seemed just to make things worse for Tennessee, who were victimized yet again by too many avoidable penalties. It seemed to be a double edged sword too, with other big no-calls that followed; the most egregious being a facemask sack of Zach Mettenberger that was mysteriously not cited.
The special teams aspect continues to be a dud for the Titans, who seemed to start from the 10 yard line or worse all day long. Like many Titans fans, I miss the days when Marc Mariani could at least get us to the 20...
The Titans have only themselves to blame for this one. With the solid defensive efforts early on, they needed to find a way to put points on the board, and that proved too difficult a task. Yet again the unit was sabotaged by suspect offensive line play and an inconsistent running game accordingly. It is understandably difficult to evaluate Mettenberger when the team is constantly in 3rd and forever.