NASHVILLE — After a 5-0 start, the Tennessee Titans (5-2) dropped their second of two losses in inexcusable fashion to the Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) on Sunday 31-20. Head coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson should be ashamed of the performance put on by their football team.
Funny words to espouse about a winning franchise halfway through their season.
Ripping players and coaches publicly won’t help matters. Yelling louder at either party behind the scenes likely falls on deaf ears. Tennessee needs a swift kick in the ass from somebody, though, and heavy lies the crown the two men at the top. The defense remains historically bad on 3rd downs, impotent when it comes to getting the quarterback down and, somehow, worse in coverage. Their offense performed spectacularly through the first seven weeks but finally had a let-down the Titans could not afford.
Not even running back Derrick Henry clearing 100 yards rushing (16-1 when he does so) could save the Titans today.
If only things were that simple.
Tennessee’s defensive issues boggle the mind. The only thing Vrabel seems positive of is that a lack of coaching or defined defensive coordinator.
“I would say that that’s not a factor,” Vrabel said via Zoom on Sunday. “I’m positive that’s not a factor. We have to continue to coach better and play better but I’m certain that that’s not what led to us giving up points and getting off the field on 3rd down.”
A first look at their defensive execution would lend itself to some of what Vrabel expressed but in no way completely exonerates the coaching staff.
The Bengals converted 66.7% of their 3rd downs (10-of15) against Tennessee’s defense that’s last in the league in that metric by a mile. Veteran Johnathan Joseph remains an absolute liability at corner without Adoree’ Jackson available to them yet this season, giving up eight completions for 92 of Joe Burrow’s 249 yards and a touchdown. The veteran clearly lacked confidence trying to make tackles and looked completely out of place on the fourth-quarter score by Tyler Boyd that all but buried them.
Perhaps the biggest indictment of the Titans is the amount of money they have invested in three outside linebackers who collectively have 1.5 sacks. Futility has never been better embodied than on 3rd-and-10 with under nine minutes to play in the third quarter. Harold Landry (twice), Chris Jackson and Jadeveon Clowney all had Burrow dead to rights in the backfield but allowed the rookie to side-step multiple tackles and still surge forward for a seven yard gain.
Pressures be damned. This team needs results.
It’s as humiliating a moment as you’ll see from paid professionals and it still might not be as upsetting as the $9.5 million Tennessee given Vic Beasley to regularly contribute nothing to this football team.
Shuffle The Deck Chairs
Vrabel expressed no commitment postgame to benching underperforming players but did, again, acknowledge that, defensively, things have to change.
Adoree’ Jackson’s impending return from Injured Reserve will not cure all and nor will a hypothetical trade for New England Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore, who is reportedly available. If the this is the hand Vrabel is dealt, it remains incumbent on him to adapt to what they have available.
Vrabel remains “positive” that the coaching is not the hindrance, though, and time is running out fast before Tuesday’s NFL Trade Deadline to acquire better players.
Featured Image: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports.