Chalk up the Tennessee Titans’ opening day disaster to poor execution from the players and poor coaching from Mike Vrabel and his staff.
The Tennessee Titans were defeated by a score of 27-20 in their first game of the season, a road matchup with the Miami Dolphins. The game could not have gone worse for the Titans.
In what ended up as the longest game in NFL history (with nearly 4 hours of lightning delays), the Titans suffered a series of maladies that can only be described as horrific. Their three most important offensive players—tackle Taylor Lewan, tight end Delanie Walker, and quarterback Marcus Mariota—all left the game early due to injuries.
Walker’s injury was particularly gruesome, as his right ankle bent in a direction that an ankle should never bend. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported that he suffered a dislocated ankle along with a fracture of some kind. It’s almost certainly a season-ending injury.
#Titans TE Delanie Walker suffered a dislocated ankle in today’s loss vs the #Dolphins, I’m told. There was also an associated fracture. His season is almost certainly over, a tough injury for an underrated and productive player.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 10, 2018
Lewan will enter the concussion protocol, and Mariota suffered what the Titans described as an “elbow injury.”
A lot of fans will want to blame the officiating crew or the excessive delay for the Titans’ loss, but that isn’t where the blame should be placed. Instead, the blame should be placed squarely on the Titans’ players and coaches.
— David J. Chao, MD (@ProFootballDoc) September 10, 2018
Sure the holding call on Delanie Walker that negated a would-be long Derrick Henry touchdown run wasn’t great, nor was the spot following Rashad Jones’ interception in the first half. But the Titans should have been able to win the game regardless of those plays.
Mariota missing the mark, again.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who really struggled in the preseason and throughout Training Camp, looked pretty bad. He threw two interceptions, the first of which was a total airmail intended for Tajaé Sharpe.
Also plaguing Mariota was the fact that he and receiver Corey Davis still look completely out of sync. Mariota threw behind Davis on an early third down (the pass was still caught), and he completely missed him later thanks to another episode of “miscommunication” with a choice-route.
Things weren’t much better for the Titans’ defense. Especially in the first half, they were completely carved up by Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offense. Running backs Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake ran wild all day, combining for 109 rushing yards on 23 carries (4.74 YPC). Drake added 18 yards through the air.
The defense also was not able to generate a much of a pass rush throughout the game. Their only sack came late in the game when LB Kamalei Correa was left unblocked on a blitz.
Bad coaching decisions.
The reason that the Titans were defeated ultimately came down to poor coaching. There were plenty of mistakes made in just about every aspect of the game.
When it came to time management, the Titans were especially bad. They very quickly burned their first two timeouts in the first half to avoid delay of game penalties. In the second half, as time was beginning to run out, the Titans called their second timeout to re-organize on defense, costing them a chance to stop the clock later on.
The biggest issue for the Titans against the Dolphins can be attributed to their offensive coaching staff, who made some really poor decisions. The scheme and overall gameplan were fine, but they did a poor job of getting their best weapons involved in the game early and often.
If I asked you before the game who the Titans’ three most important offensive players are, your answer should have been Walker, Lewan, and Mariota.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) September 9, 2018
Delanie Walker was targeted just twice in the first half, and WR Rishard Matthews was not targeted a single time. Additionally, there was way too much of Derrick Henry in the first half.
Henry has proven over and over again that he cannot be counted upon consistently to lead a rushing attack, evidenced again by his putrid 2.6 YPC against the Dolphins. Dion Lewis is clearly the better back for what the Titans want to do, and he needs to out-touch Henry from here on out.
The odds are that both Marcus Mariota and Taylor Lewan will be back next week for the Titans’ home opener against the Texans. Derrick Morgan’s role will also be able to increase, and Rashaan Evans could be available as well.
But those things can only go so far. The Titans didn’t lose to the Dolphins because they had insufficient personnel or had to sit around for four hours. They lost because of poor coaching and poor execution.
The Dolphins have playmakers on both sides of the ball, but the Texans will present another level of a challenge next week. A lot needs to be cleaned up if the Titans want to avoid going 0-2.
Cover images via Titans Online.