After a 57-14 loss to the Houston Texans in week four and an injury to starting quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Tennessee Titans (2-3) thought they had seen the worst.
But, after an ugly 16-10 loss against the Miami Dolphins (2-2) on Sunday afternoon, they realized they hadn’t.
Head Coach Mike Mularkey’s team now sits tied third in the AFC South with the Indianapolis Colts, who they’ll take on next Monday night.
Here are three reasons why the Titans crumbled at Hard Rock Stadium in week five.
The glue that holds the Tennessee Titans together is Marcus Mariota. It is as simple as that.
With backup quarterback Matt Cassel under center, the rhythm disappears, the execution is abysmal and mobility is absent.
In an ugly offensive performance for both teams, the Titans started off the game with a three and out. Then, it did not get any better. Offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie’s squad finished with 188 yards of offense, two turnovers and 2-13 on third down conversions.
Titans had more penalties (7) than first downs (5) and more penalty yards (50) than passing yards (49) in the first half.
— Mickey Ryan (@MickeyRyan1045) October 8, 2017
Cassel finished the game completing 21 of 32 passes, for 141 yards and a touchdown. But, the stats look better than the performance. He missed open receivers, too slow in the pocket and couldn’t manage the offense.
Coach Mularkey thought differently about his performance.
“I thought he managed the offense well. I know there are a lot of throws he would like to have back. There’s some throws that I would like to see our guys make plays for,” Mularkey said on Cassel’s day. “Overall, I mean it’s the first time he has started and played in a game since last year. I’ll make a good call on it after I watch him.”
Obviously, Mularkey does not want to throw his quarterback under the bus, but Cassel seemed unprepared. Cassel said in postgame that he did not even know he was starting the game until Saturday. And according to Mularkey, Mariota wasn’t “real close” to playing this week.
So, why he didn’t know sooner? Not sure, but it most likely would not have made a difference.
The bottom line: If the Titans want to have any chance of winning against the struggling Colts next week, they better hope Mariota is under center.
Absent Offensive Line
Yes, Cassel did not play well. But, his offensive line didn’t show up.
69 rushing yards. Six sacks and a defensive touchdown allowed.
This performance was completely uncharacteristic by the Titans line, which is known as one of the best in the NFL.
Going into the matchup, the Titans O-line had allowed only four sacks, which was tied for second in the NFL. Right tackle Jack Conklin and Co. let the Dolphins front seven run wild.
It seemed Cassel was running for his life on almost every passing play. He was checked for a concussion after the first quarter, and trainers were checking out his right hand.
Delanie Walker has stayed in to block on both the #Titans pass plays this drive.
— Austin Stanley (@AustinStanley81) October 8, 2017
The pressure was on the offensive line to carry the Titans to a win through the running game. But, the Dolphins defense dominated the line of scrimmage and made Robiskie’s offense one-dimensional.
“They did a good job up front stuffing us.” Mularkey said on his offensive line performance. “It’s hard to get into a rhythm if you can’t get into third down and makeable.”
To make things worse, starting left tackle Taylor Lewan left the game with a knee injury in the first quarter. Coach Mularkey said he was getting an MRI in the postgame presser.
The offensive line looked uninspired and poorly coached against the Dolphins. That’s something that hasn’t been said about the Titans line in a while.
Rarely is this ever a legitimate concern to pose following a game, but the officiating in week five is the exception.
The referees called 16 penalties in the game for 100 yards. Their most egregious calls came in back to back plays and flipped the script of the entire game for the Titans.
First off, it was a 59-yd touchdown pass from Cassel to tight end Delanie Walker that was negated for a hold by Jonnu Smith. The call was questionable to say the least, and Twitter erupted.
I'm still in shock over the offensive PI call followed by that awful fumble call. It should be 7-3 Titans.
— Chad Withrow (@withrowzone) October 8, 2017
YOU. HAVE. GOT. TO. BE. KIDDING. ME!!!
— Lee Hargis (@SweetLee32) October 8, 2017
Then, a bad series of events got worse as Cassel was sacked, “fumbled” and Dolphins safety Reshad Jones returned it for a touchdown.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) October 8, 2017
Titans players said after the game they did not try to tackle the returner because of a blown whistle.
Coach Mularkey said it was “poor call” and defended his team.
“I think I’ll believe our offensive lineman before I’ll believe anyone in New York,” he said on the call. “They said there was a whistle, then I believe our guys . . . There is no reason for them to all stop on the play if they didn’t hear one.”
The 14-point swing turned the game on its head, killed all momentum for the Titans and gave the Dolphins life.
Referees can change games. They managed to do it with only two plays in this one.
A to Z Sports Postgame Reaction Show:
(Featured Image Credit: Donn Jones, titansonline.com)