On Sunday, the Titans narrowly beat the Buccaneers, 27-23. The Titans did not play that great of a game but managed to win. The Titans had a pretty poor offensive game but redzone execution made the difference in the game. Defensively, the Titans played well, and forced 4 turnovers. The secondary played an ok game but Mike Evans destroyed the Titans throughout the game.
Here are some key stats from the game: (taken from ESPN.com)
QB Ryan Tannehill: 21/33 193yds 3 TD
RB Derrick Henry: 16 CAR 75yds 4.7 avg 1 FUM
P Brett Kern: 1 CAR 0yds
TE Jonnu Smith: 6 REC 78yds 1 TD
TE Anthony Firkser: 3 REC 43yds
WE Tajae Sharpe: 3 tgts 3 REC 18yds 1 TD
WR AJ Brown: 2 REC 11yds 1 TD
WR Corey Davis: 6 tgts 2 REC 9yds LB Rashaan Evans: 12 TOT 8 SOLO 1 TFL
Jurrell Casey: 5 TOT 3 SOLO 1 SACK 2 TFL
3rd down efficiency: 5/13 (38%)
4th down efficiency: 0/1
Total plays: 57
Total yards: 246
Rushing yards: 72
Passing yards: 174
Fumbles: 2 (Henry, Tannehill)
Fumbles lost: 1 (Henry fumble)
QB Jameis Winston: 21/43 301yds 2 TD 2 INT 2 FUM 8 CAR 53yds
RB Ronald Jones: 11 CAR 35yds
WR Mike Evans: 12 tgts 11 REC 198yds 2 TD
WR Chris Godwin: 8 tgts 4 REC 43yds
LB Lavonte David: 12 TOT 6 SOLO 1 TFL
3rd down efficiency: 7/15 (46%)
4th down efficiency: 1/2
Total plays: 76
Total yards: 389
Rushing yards: 106
Passing yards: 283
Fumbles lost: 2
The headline heading into the last two weeks has been Ryan Tannehill. Last week against Los Angeles, Tannehill played a solid game and threw for 300+ yards and 3 TDs. This week however, Tannehill threw for just 193yds but 3 TD. I do not think Tannehill played amazingly but he played well enough. Tannehill took his opportunities and capitalized when the Titans made it to the redzone. One thing that stands out to me is Tannehill’s back to back interceptions. In the middle of the third quarter, Tannehill threw two interceptions. Both were called back due to penalties. On the first,there were two penalties: roughing the passer, and pass interference. But on the second, Tannehill made a poor decision to throw the ball into a dangerous location. Tannehill is not the long term answer, but he is playing well enough right now. When the Titans schedule begins to ramp up, and they play teams like the Saints and the Texans, I do not think this level of play will win many games.
What went well in the game:
1. Redzone production
The Titans scored on all three trips to the redzone. Two were set up by great defensive plays and one was a nice drive by the offense. The offense only had a few good drives, but when put in a good position, they capitalized. This was the difference between winning and losing the game because in this game, field goals were not adequate. The Buccaneers defense ranked 1st against the run and 32nd against the pass going into this game. The pass game looked good in the redzone, and Henry did not get much volume in the redzone. It appeared that OC Arthur Smith embraced the fact that the Buccaneers were selling out to stop the run in the redzone.
2.QB pressure and presence of LBs
When it came to pass rush, the Titans played a pretty solid game. Simmons made a few nice tackles, and it seemed that Wake, Landry, and Casey had many QB pressures. The QB pressure was not great but it forced Winston to rush the ball out, and ultimately turn the ball over. The presence of the linebackers was very important to the defense. Rashaan Evans played yet another outstanding game, and proved why the Titans drafted him in the first round in 2018. Evans was fantastic against the run and made many great tackles. In addition to Evans, Jayon Brown, Harold Landry, and Cameron Wake all had good games. Brown made a notable pass break up in the 2nd half, Landry had many QB pressures, and Wake made many good plays including QB pressures. Before the season, I predicted a breakout by the Titans core of young linebackers, and they have had a great first half of the season.
What did not go well:
Coaching has been a problem just about every week this season. Mike Vrabel made one of the most ill-advised playcalls I have ever seen. Vrabel called for a fake field goal when the Titans were winning by 4 points in the 4th quarter. A field goal would have put the Titans up by a touchdown but Vrabel called a fake field goal, where punter, Brett Kern, rolled out to the left rather than holding the snap for Kicker Cody Parkey. Parkey was 2/2 on FG and 3/3 on XP and he was having a great game. Brett Kern is one of the best punters in the league and Vrabel had the idea of rolling him out to run for a 1st down. My thought is if you are going to go for it, then go for it, don't fake a field goal! On the play, Kern was hit very hard and fumbled the ball. Luckily the refs missed it. Had Kern fumbled, and the Bucs had scored and won, I don't even know what I would do. Another piece of questionable coaching was the playcalling. Arthur Smith made a few peculiar play calls such as the RPO to Ryan Tannehill. Ryan Tannehill is not Marcus Mariota and he does not have the same skillset. They have many similarities but Tannehill is not a runner. Another odd playcall was running Derrick Henry up the middle twice in a row on multiple occasions. I think Henry had a fantastic game, and he ran very well, but running him up the middle on 1st and 2nd down is not the right idea.
2. Stopping playmakers
Stopping playmakers has been a problem for the Titans a few times this season. The Titans greatly struggled stopping WR Mike Evans. Evans Totaled 11 catches for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns. Evans seemed like he was on the end of every deep pass. Many different people guarded Evans during the game but the Titans 4th corner, LeShaun Sims, was guarding him far too often. On his touchdowns, it seemed that Evans did not even have to put in much effort to run past the DB and catch the ball. Another thing the Titans struggled to stop was Jameis Winston scrambling. Winston got out of too many tackles and he ran for the first down. Winston is not terribly fast but he broke many tackles, and outran the Titans on a few occasions.
3. Offensive consistency
The Titans offense looked incredibly stale at many times against the Bucs. As I mentioned earlier, I think Derrick Henry played a great game. He did fumble the ball, but he ran very well, and when he got to the outside, he produced big plays. Henry had a 42yd run called back by a hold on Mycole Pruitt, and he had a 34yd run from inside the Titans 5yd line. If the interior line had blocked better, Henry could have had a huge game against a great run defense. The Bucs run defense is the best run defense in the league for a reason, but Henry was very close to taking a few runs to the house. This offense is much better than Marcus Mariota's week 6 offense, but I think Mariota would have played a better game than Tannehill this week.
Something that stands out to me is the injuries to the offensive line. Last week, both Nate Davis and Jack Conklin left the game with injuries. This week, Ben Jones, Taylor Lewan, Nate Davis, and Roger Saffold, all left the game at some point with an injury. At one point, Jamil Douglas was playing C (normally a G), and Dennis Kelly was playing G (normally a T). The line played well enough with the amount of injuries they had. Saffold left the game with a concussion, so he may or may not play next week.
The Titans played a decent game, but against better opponents, this level of play will not result in a win. If Winston had not turned the ball over, the Titans never would have been in the game. If the offense can just play above average, and the defense can continue to play at a high level, the Titans could win 8-10 games this season.
The Titans sit at 4-4, and they are in a pretty good position. The Titans have won two straight, but I'm not exactly sure how.
Next week the Titans face the Panthers at home. Kyle Allen lost his first game as a starter this week, and Cam Newton may be back at QB next week. Next week’s game should be interesting, and in week 10, the Titans face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.