The Titans lost to the Panthers, and in terrible fashion. Outside of one offensive drive, the Titans offense was terrible, as was most of the team. The Titans now sit at 4-5 heading into a week 10 matchup against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The offense showed a few signs of life in the second half but it was too little too late.
QB Ryan Tannehill: 27/39 331yds 1 TD 2 INT
RB Derrick Henry: 13 CAR 63yds 1 TD 3 REC 36yds 1 TD
RB Dion Lewis: 4 CAR 20yds 1 FUM 5 REC 33yds
WR AJ Brown: 7 tgts 4 REC 81yds
WR Adam Humphries: 4 tgts 4 REC 65yds
WR Corey Davis: 5 tgts (only 1 in first half) 4 REC 48yds
TE Jonnu Smith: 5 tgts 3 REC 18yds
CB Logan Ryan 10 TOT (total tackles) 3 SOLO (solo tackles)
LB Rashaan Evans: 9 TOT 4 SOLO
LB Harold Landry III: 8 TOT 2 SOLO 1 INT (first of career) 2 TFL (tackles for loss)
*Malcom Butler: 2 PD (passes defended) (*left game with injury which was later diagnosed as broken wrist: he will likely have surgery and miss multiple weeks)
3rd down efficiency: 3/10 (30%)
Total Yards: 431
Passing yards: 310
Rushing yards: 121
Penalties: 11 for 99yds
Interceptions: 2 (one was a missed catch by AJ Brown, the other was a bad read by Tannehill)
Fumbles: 1 (Dion Lewis fumbles on 3rd + 8, not completely on him as it was a good strip)
Forced turnovers: 1
QB Kyle Allen: 17/32 232yds 2 TD 1 INT
RB Christian McCaffrey: 24 CAR 146yds 6.1yd avg 2 TD LONG 58 3 REC 20yds 1 TD
WR DJ Moore: 10 tgts 7 REC 101yds
WR Curtis Samuel: 6 tgts 3 REC 64yds 1 TD
LB Shaq Thompson: 11 TOT 10 SOLO 1 SACK 3 TFL
S Eric Reid: 11 TOT 9 SOLO 1 SACK
3rd down efficiency: 5/14 (35%)
Total Yards: 370
Passing yards: 214
Rushing yards: 156
Penalties: 6 for 77yds
Forced turnovers: 3
Many things from this game stand out to me. Many things went wrong for the Titans such as playcalling, general coaching, penalties, stopping Christian McCaffrey, kicking, missed opportunities, individual mistakes, play of offensive line, and player usage, just to name a few. If you were to read that list and not watch the game or know the score, you would have thought the Titans had lost by 28+. While the Titans played a horrific game, they managed to keep it close in the second half.
The Titans playcalling was dreadful. Many poor playcalls come to mind such as repeated handoffs to Dion Lewis (this ties into player usage), a run on 2nd + 18, and short crossing passes in the 4th quarter when the Titans needed as much clock as possible. The playcalling has been consistently bad but I think it will improve. I do not have much to base this on but Arthur Smith is a new offensive coordinator and there is a clear learning curve.
Penalties were killer for the Titans. The Titans had multiple major plays called back from penalties. The offensive line in specific had many penalties throughout the game. The Titans had 99 yards of penalties, and many big plays called back. Had the offensive line played a better game, Derrick Henry could have broken out. The offensive line played reasonably well for all the injuries they had. Taylor Lewan had two penalties on the second offensive drive and Nate Davis had one on the same drive. Jamil Douglas played a pretty good game at Center outside of one missed blocking assignment and one early snap. Saffold played an ok game but he missed a key block that could have created a big play for Derrick Henry.
The Individual Mistakes and missed opportunities are closely related. An example of an individual mistake is Adam Humphries fair catch on the 5yd line. Humphries had nobody within 10yds of him and called a fair catch to be safe. Missed opportunities include 3 missed field goals and missed interceptions. Ryan Succop returned from injury and played his first game of the season but it was clear he was not ready to return. The Titans released Cody Parkey and it appears they did so prematurely. The missed interceptions were important but not game changing. Kyle Allen attempted a string of errant passes in the first half and Malcom Butler, Adoree Jackson, and Logan Ryan all had opportunities to intercept them. Jackson nearly made an incredible one handed interception in the 2nd quarter. On a side note, Adoree Jackson played a fantastic game after missing last week with a foot injury.
The player usage was the worst and most costly mistake the Titans made on Sunday. The main player that did not get the ball enough was Derrick Henry. Henry had just 2 carries in the first half which is perplexing. On the first drive of the second half, Henry proved why the offense should revolve around him. Henry got the ball 7 times on the drive and took the Titans down the field alone. Henry capped the drive off with a nice rushing touchdown. Later in the game, at the beginning of the 4th quarter, Henry scored a touchdown on a screen pass. On the play, Henry showed his elusiveness and he made multiple defenders miss tackles.
The Titans have so many problems that have persisted throughout the season. The biggest problems such as the offensive line and poor coaching, have not been addressed and this is beginning to show. After the Chargers game, I wrote that if the Titans continue to play like this against good teams, they will lose badly. The Panthers are not amazing but they exploited the Titans weaknesses. The Titans have too many persistent problems that hold them back.
My keys to the Panthers game in this article were:
1. Stop Christian McCaffrey
2. Get Derrick Henry going
3. Force Turnovers
The Titans only half way executed on one of these keys. The Titans did not at all stop Christian McCaffrey and that proved extremely important in the outcome of the game. McCaffrey had many explosive runs and he was the Panthers main source of offense. My second key, getting Derrick Henry going, was partially executed. The Titans came out in the second half and put together one of the best drives of the season lead by Derrick Henry. The problem is he had 2 carries in the first half (to Dion Lewis'4) and only had 13 carries by the end of the game. Henry was playing phenomenally in the second half and he deserved many more carries than he got. Why stop doing the only thing that is working for the offense? Forcing turnovers was my 3rd key and the Titans did not do this very well. They forced one turnover but I say they didn't do it well because they did not capitalize off the turnover. Turnovers are always good but they have much for value if they lead to points. As I mentioned earlier, the Titans missed opportunities to force turnovers.
The game on Sunday was very hard to watch. At this point, the season only gets more difficult. After the Chiefs, the Titans have a bye then they play the Jaguars, Colts, Raiders, Texans, Saints, and Texans again. This is a tough schedule and the Titans need some serious improvement if they want to compete for a playoff spot. If the Titans lose to Mahomes and the Chiefs, I think 4-6 heading into the BYE week will bring changes whether it is personnel or something else.