By Brady Trapnell
Titans Writer/Reporter

From the first kick — which was a failed onside kick attempt – the Tennessee Titans never seemed to gain their footing or find an identity in their 26-16 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo summed it up this way, “Two good teams really going at it and battling. It was a great game throughout, but they made more plays than us. It is back to the drawing board.”

Here are three reasons why the Titans couldn’t get it done in week one.

Secondary still needs improvement, pass rush absent

Going into the game it was expected that Raiders receivers, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree were going to have to be limited for the Titans to win. After 11 receptions, 145 yards and a touchdown combined between the two stars, the Titans secondary remains a concern.

Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson earned his first start and started off the game shaky. The Raiders threw to his side consistently. He gave up a touchdown early, but seemed to recover well as the game progressed.

Head Coach Mike Mularkey echoed that same sentiment in his postgame presser.

“I saw him make a lot of good plays. He made a play on the goal line by the endzone. I though that was a good play,” Mularkey said on Jackson. “… You are going against one of the best in the league in your very first start in the NFL. It’s good for you. There is nothing but good that will come of it (his game).”

Corner Logan Ryan saw work the majority of the game at nickel, but struggled throughout the game keeping up with receivers. He seemed to be one step behind on multiple big catches.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr finished the game 22-32, for 262 yards and two touchdowns. He simply had time to throw. Despite finishing the game with two sacks, the Titans pass rush was minimal at best throughout the contest.

“Carr got rid of the ball,” said Orakpo on the pass rush. “I see why they are number one in sacks not given. He gets rid of the ball and if it’s not there he throws it away.”

Inability to finish drives

Four Titans drives ended with a field goal attempt. If you want to beat one of most high-powered offenses in the NFL, you have to finish in the red zone.

In 2016, the Titans were one of the best red zone offenses in the league. Whether it was play-calling or simply poorly executed plays, the 2017 red zone offense did not start off on the right foot.

“I liked a lot of things we did,” Mularkey said on his offenses performance. “We came up short. I didn’t like that we had to kick a field goal in the red zone. We need to finish drives much better, and we need to convert third downs.”

Part of the struggle offensively was the lack of a run game. As a team, the Titans finished with 95 yards rushing on 21 carries. Left tackle Taylor Lewan said the offensive line will have to “figure out” the struggles in run blocking.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is known for his redzone efficiency, said the problems in the redzone were “critical,” but didn’t want to blame it on lack of chemistry with new receivers.

“I thought the receivers did a good job. I thought offensively we moved the ball. We just kind of got stalled down there in the redzone,” said Mariota. “That’s something we’re good at. You know over the past couple years, we’ve made a lot of play down in the red zone. Just today, we weren’t able to do that.”

Special Teams Woes 

With the Titans gaining momentum and seeming to get a big stop on defense, Titans safety Brynden Trawick, a former Oakland Raider, picked up a running into the kicker penalty.

Then, Raiders kicker Giorgio Tavecchio stepped up and hit one of his four field goals– a 52-yarder.

Those three points could have been the difference as the Titans trailed by 10 points on the final drive.

The mistakes on special teams were not limited to Trawick. Coach Mularkey tried a questionable surprise onside kick to start the game, which left the Raiders offense only 50-yards on their opening touchdown drive.

Mularkey said his team “wanted to get the ball first” when asked about the decision, but did not explain why it failed.

Mariota liked the decision to try and catch the Raiders off guard.

“Hats off to Oakland. They were ready for it,” said Mariota on the onside kick. “They made a good play but I love that. I love the aggressiveness. I love being a part of that culture. I though Coach Mularkey did a good job in making that call.”

Poor coverage on a 41-yard return by Raiders wideout Cordarelle Patterson on the Raiders second to final drive only increased the woes in special teams.

The Takeaway

The Oakland Raiders are a really, really good football team.

The Titans are still a good football team, despite the overreactions you may see on Twitter. They are a talented team with big potential. Although the 2017 team has not found their identity yet, it will be interesting to see how they respond against a division foe in Jacksonville next week.

(Featured Photo Credit: Donn Jones, titansonline.com)

 

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