On Sunday, the Titans lost to the Bills, 14-7. The game was very low scoring and it revolved around both team’s defense. The Titans offense looked OK but there were many small mistakes that lead to a loss.
Here are some key individual stats from the game:
QB Marcus Mariota: 13/22 183yds 0 TD 0 INT
RB Derrick Henry: 20 CAR 78yds 1 TD
TE Johnu Smith: 1 REC 57yds
WR Adam Humphries: 4 REC 30yds
S Kevin Byard: 5 tackles 1 INT
QB Josh Allen: 23/32 219yds 2 TD 1 INT
RB Frank Gore: 14 CAR 60yds
WR John Brown: 5 REC, 75yds
WR Isaiah McKenzie: 2 REC 52yds
Key team stats from the game:
3rd down efficiency: 4-14
Total plays: 54
Total Yards: 252
Passing yards: 150
Rushing yards: 102
3rd down efficiency: 4-13
Total Plays: 63
Total yards: 313
Passing yards: 204
Rushing yards: 209
The game was back and forth but very few points were scored. Mariota and the Titans had 2 touchdowns get called back and kicker Cairo Santos missed 4 Field Goals. It was clear the Mariota had very little help. It seemed that every other play Mariota was being rushed to get rid of the ball due to poor offensive line play. Additionally, receivers dropped the ball. Two of the most sure-handed receivers on the team, Delanie Walker and Adam Humphries, both dropped passes.
Positives from the game:
1. Entire defense
The defense as a whole played a solid game against Buffalo, holding them to just 14 points. Players on the defense that stood out to me were Kevin Byard, Rashaan Evans, and Jayon Brown. Byard had a nice INT and both LBs played a great game and made many noticeable tackles. The Bills offense is not too amazing, but the Titans did a good job of holding them to just 14 points. I thought the game would be low scoring, but I did not expect just three scores the whole game.
2. Plat action and creative play calling
I thought OC Arthur Smith called some very interesting plays such has the Run Pass Option (RPO) to Derrick Henry. He ran a similar play twice; one was a pitch option while one was a run option. Henry also had at least one play where he lined up under center. The more creative Smith can be with Derrick Henry the better. If Henry can get outside, such as on some of those pitch plays, he is very hard to bring down and his stiff arm is extremely powerful.
Negatives from the game:
I feel that I put coaching in the negative category far too often. I believe Vrabel made multiple questionable decisions on Sunday such as when he elected to kick yet another FG after Cairo Santos had already missed 4 on the day. The two examples that come to mind are the 4th and 6 call to go for it against the Colts and the call to kick a 4th field goal of the game. The field goal came after Santos was 0/3 in the game and the kick was 53yds so it was certainly not a chip shot. Vrabel’s reasoning after the game was he wanted to win it, meaning he wanted to kick a field goal so the Titans could score a Touchdown on the next drive to put them up 7. Even if the field goal were good, there is no telling whether the Titans would have even gotten the ball back after that. Since last year, I have never really thought Vrabel is a great coach and that is showing more than ever now. I believe Vrabel should be on the hot seat although it is very unlikely he would be fired during the season.
This is an extremely obvious negative but it was crucial in the game. Santos left 12 points on the field by missing four field goals. Two of which were 50yds or longer so they were not easy kicks. If Santos had just made three kicks, the Titans would have won by 2 and the rest of the game would have been completely different. I think the chances of Santos being cut at some point tomorrow are very high, but the Titans must have another kicker in place that is ready to start next week in Denver. I still believe Santos is an above average kicker he just had an extremely rough game but, in the NFL, one bad game can mean being cut.
3. Most of the Offense
Through the first three weeks of the season (not in Week 4 vs Atlanta), the Offensive Line was terrible. Mariota was sacked an NFL high 17 times through the first 3 weeks. Many people believed when All Pro LT Taylor Lewan returned from suspension in Week 5, the Offensive Line would greatly improve. This was not the case, the line looked very bad. One of the biggest problems has been RG and that was fixed this week. Rookie G, Nate Davis started at RG but when RG improved, everything else got worse. I feel that backup tackle Dennis Kelly who has been playing in Lewan’s spot, may be more beneficial to the team. Lewan is the highest payed LT in the league and he plays too similarly to Kelly. Additionally, Lewan is undisciplined and gets many penalties. I appreciate Lewan standing up for Mariota but often times, he does not know when to stop talking and often gets himself a penalty. The other main problem was LG, specifically Roger Saffold. Saffold was signed by the Titans on March 12, he signed a 4 year, $44m deal. This contract was very big and he was viewed as a big upgrade from Quinton Spain who started for the Titans last year at LG. I personally thought Spain was very good and I was a bit surprised when the Titans let him go. Spain played for the Bills on Sunday and played a solid game. Saffold looked terrible against the Bills and he was the cause of 3 sacks, all by Jordan Philips who ran over him multiple times.
Other parts of the offense were also bad, such as the receivers. There were far too many dropped passes. Delanie started the game with a big play that was later negated due to a penalty, but after that, he was not very involved. Outside of a dropped pass in the 3rd quarter, it seemed that Walker was involved very little in the Offense. In addition to Walker, Humphries also dropped a pass.
I also think that in his 3rd year, Corey Davis should be making more plays. He had a prime opportunity to make a great TD grab in the first half. I believe Davis has the ability to make big plays but he rarely does so in games.
While the game was not great for the Titans, they did not play terribly. In no way was the result of the game Marcus Mariota’s fault. People will still blame him for the loss but he had no help outside of a few plays by Henry and a couple receivers.
The Titans face the Broncos next week. My postgame article will likely be greatly delayed. Denver is one of the hardest places to play, and the Broncos are coming off their first win against the struggling Chargers. Denver has a decent defense and their offense has some weapons. I am most concerned about Philip Lindsay on the Offensive side of the ball and I am most scared of Von Miller defensively.
If the run game gets going and the Defense plays like they did in the first 5 weeks, the Titans can definitely win this game. At 2-3, I certainly do not believe the season is over. Obviously winning this game would have been extremely helpful but the season is not over. After the Broncos, the Titans play the Chargers, Bucs, and the Panthers. Those are 4 very winnable games and that is a good opportunity to build momentum.
If the Titans lose next week I will officially be worried. Since 1978, only 18 teams have made it to the playoffs after starting the season with a record of 2-4. I believe this team can make the playoffs despite their current record. If Mariota can string together a few great games, anything can happen and the Titans can beat any team.
While I am worried about the coming weeks, I think the Titans can begin to build momentum. I feel good about the Broncos game but it is all dependent on what Titans team shows up… Buffalo and Jacksonville Titans or Cleveland and Atlanta Titans.