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Quick Film Review: Titans first half offense

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Breaking down some big hits and misses from the Titans offense against the Browns.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

1st Drive

This is the first play of the game, Marcus's 41 yard run.

First screenshot, we show an imbalanced set with an extra tackle and a TE and Murray to the left. They don't really have numbers to defend a run to the left. The Titans are presenting 5 gaps left of C, and the Browns only have 5 defenders if you count the cornerback and safety nearly off screen and the linebacker who has his shoulders turned to the other side of the field. In any case, the Titans have a leverage advantage.

At the snap of the ball, Mariota fakes to Murray. Marcus pulls the ball from Murray so quickly, it’s not completely clear to me whether it’s meant to be a play action or a read option. The left TE releases into the flat, and the corner trails him as if it's a passing play (it may actually be a run/pass option (RPO)). To make matters worse for the defense, Delanie is on a full speed motion across the formation to lead block for Marcus.

The second screenshot is taken right before Marcus pulls the ball. It appears to be inside zone blocking. The linebacker is still out of position, and biting on the fake to Murray. So TE1 takes a man out of the play, Delanie comes over as a lead blocker to replace him, MLB effectively removes himself from the play by position. We've got two potential runners, 4 blockers, and only 3 defenders—and none of the three are containing the edge.

So Mariota pulls it and follows Delanie for 41 yards. That’s exotic smashmouth football.

Oh, and if the corner stays home to try to be the edge player, Mariota stands up and hits the TE in the flat, most likely.

By the end of the first drive, Cleveland was stacking the box against our heavy sets and making great 1 on 1 plays on Murray to stop the run. Marcus had to pass twice on the drive, had excellent protection both times, and made two phenomenal throws.

2nd Drive

2nd drive is a similar story, they're stacking the box and blitzing to stop the run on first down. They are completely committed to shutting down Murray. Marcus makes a good throw on 2nd down to Kendall Wright, and they just can't keep the drive alive on 3rd and 2 (where even though they're in 4 WR spread, there's still 6 defenders in the box for Murray).

The screenshot above is the 3rd and 2 incompletion to Murray. You can see from this angle that if Marcus throws a more accurate ball, Murray would have the first down and perhaps a lot more. This was one of Mariota’s few mistakes on the day, and it sent the Titans off the field 3 and out on an otherwise well designed drive by Robiskie.

3rd Drive

The 3rd drive resulted in our 2nd touchdown of the half. 1st down is a loaded box PA pass, but it's well covered down the field so Marcus scrambles for a yard. 2nd down loaded box Murray picks up a tough 2 yards on an inside zone run where our guards got beat. 3rd down is a completion to Supernaw in the flat to keep the chains moving.

Then the biggest highlight reel play of the game. It’s another play action pass. In the screenshot below, it looks like the backside corner and free safety are dropping into 3 deep coverage. But the playside corner bites hard on the play fake, and is not dropping into his zone.

As a result, Kendall Wright from the slot crosses the free safety’s face and gets behind the corner biting on the play action. Marcus Mariota navigates a messy pocket to deliver a nice deep ball that Wright dives to catch and gets into the endzone.

At this point in the game, fans were becoming angry with Robiskie for staying too committed to the run when Murray wasn’t finding any room, but there’s value in staying with the run game within reason. If Mariota can keep taking advantage of these play action situations, there is good reason to stick with being a “run first” team, even when it’s not as productive as we’d like.