The Tennessee Titans were defeated 16-15 by the New Orleans Saints in Sunday’s regular-season opener at the Caesars Superdome. The Titans were debuting a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Tim Kelly. The 2023 Titans looked unfortunately similar to the 2022 Titans, but there was one stark difference that qualifies as unnecessary.
Superstar running back Derrick Henry was somehow out-snapped 34-30 by rookie Tyjae Spears. Henry was effective, totaling 119 yards via 17 touches, or 7.0 yards per touch. In the interest of fairness, those numbers were inflated by a 46-yard screen, but Henry still averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry.
It was shocking to see Henry on the sidelines so often throughout a one-score game the entire way. Why did quarterback Ryan Tannehill attempt 34 passes compared to Henry’s 15 carries? The Titans never had to abandon the run. Kelly simply chose to.
Spears was often in the backfield while Tannehill took snaps out of shotgun formation. Spears, who rushed for 27 yards via three carries, didn’t earn his first carry until the third quarter. Until then, the Titans routinely tipped pass by removing Henry in favor of Spears. The Saints’ swarming secondary wasn’t fooled.
Tannehill threw three interceptions, was lucky it wasn’t four or five, and missed two wide-open touchdowns. It was argubaly his worst performance in a Titans uniform. Tannehill was also sacked on three occasions behind a debuting new-look offensive line. Tannehill dropped back on 40 total occasions compared to 19 team rushing attempts. Every time Tannehill dropped back, you felt like a disaster was ensuing. It often did.
The Titans want to be a more well-balanced offense. In truth, it’s necessary to compete in today’s pass-happy NFL. But until they actually look capable of fielding an NFL-level passing attack, they should remain a Henry-based offense.
The Titans got away from what works on Sunday and it cost them.