Things got off to a great start this afternoon in Nashville. Mularkey's exotic smashmouth approach yielded some nice results early, with Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray making plays early. Tennessee really dominated the first half of play, jumping out to a ten point lead behind the legs of Murray.
However, the second half was a different story.
The Titans came out flat in the third quarter, immediately giving up a big return. This put the Vikings in field goal range and allowed them to get on the board quickly. After adding another field goal, disaster struck.
Mariota was pressured immediately and quickly threw the ball out to Henry in the flats. But Eric Kendricks was there to pick it off. He took it all the way home for six.
Suddenly, the Titans were behind for the first time.
The offense just wasn't the same after that. There wasn't any rhythm after the half. After a couple of three and outs, Mariota and Murray fumbled on what looked to be a read option. The Vikings scooped it up and returned it for six.
That was pretty much the game. Tennessee played well defensively, but you wouldn't know it looking at the scoreboard. The run defense was stout all day long, bottling up Adrian Peterson all day long.
The pass defense was good enough -- although is was against Shaun Hill. They had some lapses on key third downs, but the pass rush was really lacking. Derrick Morgan and Jurrell Casey were really the only ones that could generate anything, but Morgan left in the third quarter with a hamstring issue. This is something to monitor this week.
The one real bright spot? Tajae Sharpe. He impressed once again today, putting up 7 catches for 76 yards. He looks like a really nice piece moving forward. He's not a dynamic or explosive player, but he's a hard-nosed possession guy that is going to win over the middle of the field for Mariota.
This day came down to turnovers. Mariota can't throw that pick. Murray can't fumble the ball right there. Mariota has to be more decisive with the read option. You can't make those mistakes if you want to win games close.