The Titans had played a string of ugly games before this one, figuring out a way to win despite mistakes. That didn’t happen today. Marcus Mariota was awful down the stretch as the wheels totally fell off of the offense.
Tennessee falls to 8-5 now, making things pretty interesting in the playoff picture. Here’s how it happened today.
The Titans and Cardinals got off to a slow start in the desert. Penalties and missteps down the field in the passing game doomed the Titans in the first quarter, while the Cardinals couldn’t protect Blaine Gabbert on the other side of the ball.
That created plenty of punts to get this one started.
Tennessee finally won the field position game, getting the ball at the 50 yard line to start a drive in the 2nd quarter. However, Taylor Lewan was forced to leave the game with a lower back injury prior to that drive. Dennis Kelly was forced into action.
It ended up not mattering on that particular drive. The Titans went straight at the Cardinals with success. It was Derrick Henry winning the race to the pylon to put the Titans up 7-0.
The Cardinals were out of sorts offensively as the defense really got after Gabbert. Tennessee got the ball back with a chance to add to their lead before halftime, but a 58 yard attempt from Ryan Succop fell just short.
The Titans dominated the first half of play, but led just 7-0.
Coming out of the halftime break, Arizona would get on the board. A big play down the middle of the field to Larry Fitzgerald would flip the field. The Titans’ pass rush came through a couple of plays later though, forcing a field goal attempt. The kick was good, bringing the score to 7-3.
On the following drive, the Titans were forced to punt after a three and out. But Mularkey saw something and decided to try a fake punt on 4th and 1 from his own 35. It was initially ruled a first down, but a review changed that. Eric Weems was ruled short, handing the Cardinals a gift.
Once again, the Titans defense stood tall. After getting inside of the 10, Adoree’ Jackson made an outstanding open field tackle to force 3rd down. The Titans stuffed the run on the next play, holding Arizona to another field goal.
Tennessee escaped disaster, still clinging to a 7-6 lead.
The Titans marched right down the field on the following possession, looking to take back control of this one. A big play to Eric Decker had Tennessee in business, but yet another miscommunication in the passing game resulted in a turnover.
Mariota was picked off after what looked like a miscommunication with Rishard Matthews. Marcus threw to a spot, Matthews went the other way. The Titans seem to commit a critical error like this at least once a game.
Luckily for them, Arizona couldn’t turn it into points. However, another quick three and out gave the Cardinals another chance. Once again, the Titans’ defense bent but didn’t break. Gabbert missed a wide open Fitzgerald in the endzone, forcing Arizona to settle for three points.
Those three points gave them a lead, however. It was 9-7 Arizona with a little under six minutes to play. Marcus Mariota got the ball with a chance to win — and immediately threw another interception.
Credit the defense again though. They stood tall and forced another field goal. Phil Dawson hit another, giving the Cardinals a 12-7 lead with 3:45 to play.
Mariota — somehow — had another chance to win the game. It didn’t go well. Mariota picked up one first down, but couldn’t do anything else. Tennessee punted on 4th and 6 right at the two minute warning.
As they did all day, the defense stood tall. The Tennessee defense forced a punt with 1:41 left on the clock. Mike Mularkey exhausted all of his timeouts in the process, but the Titans would get one final shot.
They took over from their own 22. Mariota threw four straight incompletions to end it.
The Titans have serious problems here. We’ve seen them for weeks — everything just kind of culminated today. Marcus Mariota is pretty clearly broken. This offense has no identity anymore as they routinely struggle to run the ball.
Mike Mularkey has a lot of issues to iron out here, but it’s the same issues we’ve seen all year. Nothing is changing or improving. Until they do, we should probably accept the fact that the Titans aren’t ready to contend for anything just yet.