The Titans were one of three teams in the AFC South division to suffer an opening week loss.
However, the loss in Miami was more excruciating due to the overall game length and the casualties accrued.
Losing Delanie Walker late in the game was a shot to the heart. To lose a leader, an offense producing, tone-setting player like Walker for the season overshadowed everything else that transpired.
Yes, Marcus Mariota was lost early with an injured arm and returned sooner than he should have. Yes, we can’t forget the visual of a lifeless Taylor Lewan on the field of Hard Rock Stadium.
When the cornerstones of the team are all eliminated from the game - and one for the season - it is almost impossible to stomach.
But - and it’s a HUGE but - despite the egregious penalties that went in favor of the Dolphins, despite being without our starting quarterback and left tackle for the remainder of the game and despite losing Walker for the year, the Titans aren’t out of the hunt yet.
Although the game felt like it was lost by double-digits, the Dolphins narrowly won 27-20. Had Taywan Taylor held onto the ball, had Walker’s facemask not held a Dolphin defenders hand to negate a 60 touchdown run by Derrick Henry, had we took the points instead of going for it on fourth down inside the 10 yard line - the outcome would have been different.
But, it happened how it happened. At the end of the day, there are specific plays we as fans would like to get back - but also a handful players/coaches would want back too.
Elephant in the Room
The home opener will likely lack some of the positive ambiance that was initially anticipated. The dark cloud of Walker’s injury will still be lingering Sunday morning.
For HC Mike Vrabel, his work started on the plane ride back to Nashville.
He undoubtedly knows how much Walker meant both on the field and in the locker room. Vrabel will have to find a way to address team with a genuine understanding as opposed to a calloused “next guy up” approach. It will be difficult, but is achievable.
Vrabel and OC Matt LaFleur must also have a lengthy discussion with Jonnu Smith - who will have a drastically larger role in the offense moving forward. Smith, who has Delanie-traits, needs to figure out how to maximize his production in Walker’s absence.
The Titans could reach out to some former players that are looking for employment. Anthony Fasano would be my preference, but whether or not he is pursued is unknown.
Once the team gets clarification on the severity of Mariota’s injury, the coaching staff will waste no time tailoring the game plan to the players they’ll have available Sunday needs to happen quick.
Houston also suffered a seven-point loss to an AFC East team Sunday.
The Texans had 167 yards on the ground led by RB Lamar Miller’s 98. Deshaun Watson had 40 and Alfred Blue had 36.
The Titans defense struggled in containing Kenyon Drake and Frank Gore in Miami. The Texans will attempt to exploit the Titans run defense by feeding their backs and encouraging Watson to rely on his wheels when the opportunities arise.
The secondary had their hands full with Kenny Stills - who accounted for two touchdowns and over 100 yards. Despite recording two interceptions, the secondary must prepare for covering receivers longer due to an ineffective pass rush.
Speaking of the pass rush - the defense couldn’t need Harold Landry more. Landry’s youth, speed and bend was something that could have made a difference in the “almosts” sacks that were. At times, Titans defenders were not even in the same area code as Ryan Tannehill.
If Still can have a day like he did, DeAndre Hopkins will be a headache. He has wreaked havoc in games against Tennessee and his notorious push-offs can be expected. Nevertheless, the Titans have to find a way to eliminate Hopkins.
Will Fuller - who has also developed into a thorn in the Titans side - did not play against New England and is dealing with a hamstring injury.
We’ve been down this road before. Fuller missed the first three games of the 2017 season, then was ready to go against the Titans in week four. He finished the game with two touchdowns. A year prior, he returned a punt for a touchdown that also impacted the end result.
If Fuller is a no go Sunday, that helps the Titans chances. If he is miraculously healed, it could be a long day.
The Titans have to be ready to take the best Houston has to offer. If Tennessee takes the field without both starting tackles, Mariota and (the obvious) Walker, the team must depend on the offensive line to do just enough to allow Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry space.
Lewis and Henry (on the 60 yard touchdown) both looked like they can help carry the offense no matter who is under center.
They may not have a choice.