The Tennessee Titans are struggling to put their fingers on the reasons behind their up-and-down season.

At times throughout 2018, the Titans have looked like world-beaters. They have handed tough losses to two teams from the NFC East, already defeated two opponents within their own division, and they completely dismantled the reigning AFC Champions, the New England Patriots.

At other times, to put things mildly, things have not looked so good. Against the typically-putrid Buffalo Bills, the Titans sleepwalked for four quarters and found themselves leaving the building with a loss. Last week in Indianapolis, they laid the ultimate egg, losing to their division rival by a brutal score of 38-10.

All of this volatility has the Titans record where one might expect it to be: 5-5, right at the .500 mark. That record is currently good for a third-place spot in the AFC South, though the Titans will play each of the teams in their division one more time before season’s end.

The overall lack of consistency has made it hard for the players in the locker-room to pinpoint why exactly things can look great one week and go very far south the next. The team has really yet to lose a game in which they looked good, which begs the question as to why they look so bad in the losses.

“I’m not even sure,” said cornerback Malcolm Butler when asked about the reasons behind the team’s up-and-down season. “I’m figuring it out now personally just by getting two games in a row pretty decent. I don’t know what it was, was it preparation or anxiety, or lack of confidence?”

Safety Kevin Byard shared a similar sentiment, saying “I feel like the only difference is that we don’t play well. You can say we don’t start fast, but we just don’t play well. I don’t really know—if I knew [what the problem was], we would do it.”

To Byard’s credit, his individual play has remained relatively consistent throughout the team’s turmoil this season. He added that the only real difference he sees on film in the games the Titans lose and the ones they win is with execution.

“Some games,” he said, “you can see on film that we’re not executing. When we don’t, we get our ass kicked. When you look at the film and we are executing, we’re doing the right things, having our eyes in the right places, we dominate teams. I think we just have to do that more consistently.”

Consistency or lack thereof when it comes to execution certainly has played a large role in the Titans’ season to this point. The question that remains, though, is why exactly that has been the case.

That’s the question that nobody within the Titans locker room seems to have a good answer to, and it’s hard to fault them for that. It has, after all, been a very bizarre season as a whole for the Titans.

The problem with that, though, is that it’s almost impossible to fix a problem that you can’t identify. That will be the biggest challenge for the Titans moving forward.

Malcolm Butler said that the best course of action for the Titans is to return to the basics. “Just go back to the basics, the fundamentals. My defensive backs coach from junior college, Kevin Lewis, always said to go back to the fundamentals, from the first strike to the last.”

Running back Dion Lewis, asked about the mood in the locker room following another disappointing loss, said the Titans are “pissed off,” saying, “we laid an egg and that’s unacceptable.”

Lewis added that, as the Titans move forward, accountability needs to be a major focus. “We’ve just got to help each other out, play harder for each other. I think we’ve all got to look each other in the face after the game and ask, ‘Did you give it all for your brother?’ If you can’t do that, you’re letting your teammates down.”

The Titans have an opportunity to get things going back in the right direction against the Texans this week on Monday Night Football. At this point, it’s fair to wonder whether the good Titans or the bad Titans will show up.

Cover Image: USA Today/Trevor Ruszkowski

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