The Titans just dropped what has to be the most frustrating game in quite some time, losing to the Indianapolis Colts...again. As if 11 straight losses isn't enough, the loss puts any chance at the postseason on life support. So after this one, who are the winners and losers?
The Titans sophomore QB was again a highlight. While it took a few drives to get the Titans going, he played turnover free football and was able to lead the team to points. Several times the coaching staff put the ball in his hands in crucial times, and each time he delivered big. He will have to rue the rough start, which is as much to blame on the Titans offensive line, running backs, and play calling, but he played well enough to win. For those keeping record at home, Mariota has 23 TDs and 8 INTs on the year, including 19 TDs and 3 INTs in the last seven games.
Matthews has been playing solid football, but he came alive against the Colts. He topped 100 yards and put the Titans in position to score, making good on a high volume of passes from Mariota. He was reliable, and has shown ability to both stretch the field and play possession football underneath when needed. Many have pointed to the Titans' lack of a true "number 1 WR" for years. Matthews may not be that prototypical guy, but he's been making plays all over the field for the Titans of late.
Morgan has set a career high for sacks in this 2016 campaign. But it's not just the quarterback takedowns that have improved for him; he is generating more hurries than he has at any point in the past, and looks like an above average 3-4 OLB consistently. He had a dominant game against the Colts, getting plenty of heat on Luck, especially in the second half. On one particular play, he took advantage of a matchup with a tight end, driving him all the way back into Luck for a sack. Morgan is shining in this Lebeau defense.
Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin
Not two names I would expect to put up here. Lewan and Conklin formed the NFL's best OT duo through 10 weeks; with neither allowing a sack. Conklin hadn't even allowed a recorded pressure. That streak ended abruptly against the Colts; with the pair surrendering three sacks between them. Indianapolis and their subpar defense should have been business as usual for these two, but they both picked inopportune times to have their worst games of the year. When the Titans can't run the ball and are forced to throw 40+ times, it's likely not going to look good. That's not an indictment of Mariota or any other player on the offense, it's just not how this unit is designed.
While Jason McCourty didn't exactly look like an All-Pro against Indy, Perrish Cox again stood out as the Achilles heel of this Titans defense. They are starving for cornerback talent right now. I'm part of the camp that believe Cox could be a good nickel corner, but he is just overmatched on the outside. Time and time again opposing QBs have targeted him, and Luck is probably chief among them. Hilton and Moncrief abused the embattled corner endlessly Sunday, and receptions to his side consistently greased the wheels of an Indy offense that jumped out to a ridiculous early lead. This is undoubtedly GM Jon Robinson's biggest offseason priority: fix this cornerback group.
The Titans Playoff Hopes
Tennessee was always going to be a long shot to make the postseason, especially after notching just 5 wins between 2014 and 2015. But this unit has surprised us, looking like a competent team every week and notching 5 wins through 10 weeks. But falling to 1-3 in the division, the Titans revealed their fatal flaw; they aren't going anywhere until they can beat Indy and Houston, something they seem entirely incapable of doing. In fact, they tend to look like a totally different team when they match up with their divisional rivals. It is still technically possible that the Titans make a run and the cards fall just the right way for them to reach the playoffs, but that is never what this 2016 campaign was really going to be about. The Titans aren't a bad team anymore, they have made the leap to mediocre. This alone is a massive accomplishment. Another savvy offseason from Robinson could help them elevate their game again in 2017. I am by no means giving up on 2016, but this was a loss the Titans could ill afford, and showed me that they aren't the consistent team they need to be to call themselves postseason material.