If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For the first time since the early season, the Titans’ offense wasn’t broken in the second half of the wildcard round game against the Chiefs. The offensive blueprint appeared to be in place. It was so obvious. The spread looks had thinned out the front sevens that the Titans were facing and Derrick Henry was eating up yards on the ground.
We had seen flashes of that look previously in the year, but Terry Robiskie and Mike Mulakey stuck with it in Kansas City. They rode that plan to a victory.
Finally showing some offensive progress, the Titans had a clear plan of attack as they took a trip to Foxboro to face the Patriots. That spread look was going to beat up on the Patriots’ 21st ranked rush defense.
Or so we thought.
Robiskie went right back to his two tight end jumbo sets, condensing the field and inviting the Patriots into the box to start the game. The results were the same that we had seen all season long. Tennessee couldn’t run the football last night. More frustrating than anything, they veered away from the formations and concepts that worked so well just seven days before.
Before we go any further, let’s acknowledge the fact that two horrible calls greatly impacted this game. The offensive pass interference call on Decker and the false start that was changed to encroachment robbed a then hot Marcus Mariota of two possessions.
Those two penalties were awful, but it doesn’t excuse what happened just before halftime. Mularkey blew through his timeouts, exhausting his final one with around 20 second left in the half to draw up a 4th and 1 play. They still went for it, running out of a jumbo set. The Patriots knew what was coming, sending everyone over to the left side, stuffing Derrick Henry.
I’m still wondering what the plan was had they gotten the conversion. Best case scenario, you get everyone back to the line and spike the ball with about 10 seconds left. They likely still would not have been in field goal range at that point.
For a guy who is rumored to be coaching with his job on the line, that sequence certainly didn’t help Mularkey’s standing with anyone.
The Titans were cooked from there. To be fair, nobody is digging out of that 14 point hole in Foxboro. They were completely dominated as their season came to an end. But it was the gameplan that they brought to the table that has me frustrated.
After the game, Mularkey said that Mariota’s quad injury limited their play-calling with the read-option plays. Still yet, when they tried to run it seemed to be mainly out of bunch formations.
“I’d like to see if we played a complete game, where we would measure up. It’s hard for me to do that because we didn’t,” Mularkey said after the game.
To that I would ask, have the Titans played a complete game all season? You could probably point to the game in Jacksonville, but even that was a slow offensive start. Tennessee had 18 chances to play a complete game this year. They failed just about every time.
They were able to cover that fact up by playing an easy schedule. You’re just not going to have an easier patch than they got this season. What happens when Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck return? 9-7 will not happen again next year if things stay the same.
I told myself going in that I shouldn’t judge this staff based off a trip to Foxboro. This is what the Patriots do. But it’s absolutely maddening to watch this offensive staff refuse to run formations that have had success.
If you get beat running with what works best, fine. I just don’t think the Titans had their best gameplan at work last night.
Complicating things are the regular season results, which seem fine on the surface at 9-7. However, anyone that watched every game will tell you that this team underachieved. The constant mistakes, playing down to their opponent and the clear regression of Marcus Mariota took a lot of the fun out of the season.
That playoff moment against the Chiefs shouldn’t be forgotten, but that second half should serve as a reminder of what the Titans can be. That moment doesn’t outweigh the frustrations that seemed to take over the year.
Mistakes from the receivers never improved. The offensive scheme did little to adapt. I just seems like the league caught up to this offseason after an offseason’s worth of tape.
In a league that demands evolution, Mularkey and Robiskie are sticking to their guns no matter what the results tell them. If that’s the case going forward, what’s the point in keeping them around?
Changes have to be made offensively. We’ll see if Mularkey is willing to do that in the coming days.