That was painful. There's no other way to say it. Tennessee looked just as they had looked in the preseason, flashing a fun rushing attack and a pretty good rush defense, then it all fell to piece in the blink of an eye. Don't get too discouraged though. It didn't end like the Titans wanted, but they were in position to beat a pretty good football team. Let's go back and take a look at what went right, then what went wrong.
Sharpe was about the only constant thing that the Titans' offense offered on Sunday. He worked the intermediate nicely, beating up Trae Waynes on slants and curls. He looks like he's the real deal. Sharpe didn't shy away from contact, either. He may not be the biggest guy out there, but he played like it yesterday fighting through contact to make plays for his quarterback.
I continue to be impressed with Murray. He just looks totally changed from last season. He ran hard yesterday, finishing runs with a pop and a drive. He was the focal point of the offense yesterday, doing just about everything you could think of. He got involved in the passing game, racking up five catches and scoring twice. The Titans got away from the run game after they lost the lead, so I would expect his 13 carries to rise next week.
The Vikings never established anything on the ground against the Titans. Going into this game, I felt like the Titans would win it if the Vikings couldn't get Adrian Peterson going. That turned out to be the case, but two devastating defensive scores doomed the Titans' chances. The Titans held Peterson to 31 yards on 19 carries, which is pretty remarkable. Jurrell Casey was everywhere as usual, but I noticed DaQuan Jones, Al Woods and Angelo Blackson showing up too.
The Pass Rush
The single most frustrating aspect of the game yesterday was the lack of a pass rush in big moments. The run defense stood tall time and time again, only to give up repeated third down conversions. I thought the pass defense was okay, but they certainly didn't get any help from their pass rushers. They can only do so much.
I don't recall Shaun Hill every really even being under pressure. He had all the time in the world to work through his progressions and get the ball out to Rudolf and Diggs. Dick LeBeau is going to have to get really creative with his blitz packages to successfully bring pressure, I'm afraid.
Derrick Morgan's hamstring injury
For a team that couldn't generate any pass rush at full strength yesterday, losing your second best outside rusher is a huge issue. Remember what happened when Morgan went down last season? The defense went from respectable to laughable in a hurry. The Titans can't afford to lose Morgan right now. If they do, they'll need Kevin Dodd and David Bass to step up in big ways.
Because of their style, the Titans are going to play in a lot of low scoring slug-fests. In these types of games, one thing will cripple you faster than anything.
Turnovers. You just can't win with turnovers.
Two of these were 100 percent on Marcus Mariota. The bad pick where Mariota didn't see Kendricks roam back over to cover the flats got the ball rolling and the indecisiveness on the read option finished them off. Murray's fumble put the nail in the coffin.
The good news? These are pretty rare mistakes. You don't see Mariota misreading plays like that hardly ever. Fumbles happen, but you're probably not going to see two back to back like you did yesterday in the second half. If these careless mistakes don't happen, we're probably talking about a win today. It all goes back to execution.
Take a deep breath. The Titans didn't produce the result you wanted yesterday, but they played pretty well outside of three snaps. I think better days lie ahead.