Three things we learned in Titans win over Bengals
Story By: Brady Trapnell
This team finds ways to win.
The Tennessee Titans (6-3) did once again, as they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals (3-6), 24-20, on the back of their quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Here’s what we learned in the Titans fourth straight win.
Titans secondary took a big step
It is not that this secondary has not been good this season, they have.
No, they didn’t completely shut down AJ Green and Brandon LaFell, who combined for 210 yards on 11 receptions and a touchdown. However, they made the big plays when it mattered.
“We have a workers mentality,” Titans corner Logan Ryan said on the performance. “We called a lot of man-to-man today, and a lot of guys made a ton of plays which was good. It was all needed to win the game.”
Andy Dalton and the Bengals could not get anything going in the second half. They punted five times out of six drives of four plays or less.
A two play, 82-yard drive, capped off by a 70-yard touchdown pass to wideout AJ Green was the only time where Dick LeBeau’s defense faltered.
— NFL (@NFL) November 12, 2017
When the Titans offense has struggled to find a rhythm in the third quarter the past two weeks, this defense has shown it can put the team on its’ back to get a win.
Something that could not have been said often in 2016, especially in the secondary.
“They always say ‘defense wins games and the offense sells tickets’ and for us we know that motto is true,” rookie corner Adoree’ Jackson said following the game. “We are trying to go out there and win the game as much as possible.”
Early on this season the secondary was somewhat of a liability.
This group has a chip on its shoulder. Guys like Jackson have been getting hands on passes. They are tough and feisty, and they have answered the bell each week since a big performance against Indianapolis in week six.
Open the offense up
Offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie has had an up and down relationship with Titans fans thus far in 2017.
Following a 267 yard first half, featuring 129 yards rushing and converting 5 of 7 on third down, the Titans may have had their best first half offensive performance of the season.
What did they do well?
They ran plays like this:
— NFL (@NFL) November 12, 2017
It is creativity. It is opening the offense up. They spread out their offensive options.
“Coaches did a great job at moving people around and putting people in different spots,” wideout Rishard Matthews said on the big offensive day. “We are trying to get guys the ball and do things differently . . . Guys capitalized on it today.”
The increased use of Adoree’ Jackson as an offensive decoy and in the run-game, opened up lanes for Mariota and others to make plays.
— Titans Film Room (@titansfilmroom) November 12, 2017
The Bengals defense is no joke. They are a top 10 defense with the number one red zone defense in the NFL.
Yet, this offense finished off two, 10-play drives of 70-plus yards for touchdowns. Mariota finished 25 of 44, for 264 yards, a touchdown and an interception. They put up 180 yards rushing against a tough front-seven.
“We have a lot of guys when we get the ball in their hands, they can be very, very dangerous,” Mariota said. “When we are able to run the ball like we are able to do today, it creates a lot of different things on offense. It allows to maybe even stretch the field sometimes . . . It was huge.”
Despite missing a few opportunities to close the game out, this offense put up one of their best performances of the season.
Missed opportunities, but still finding ways to win
Missed opportunities have been a theme for the 2017 Titans.
The red zone woes are slowly disappearing, but putting a game away early is not their specialty.
“We had chances to make plays, two touchdowns and a field goal, those were points staring at us right in the face,” Mularkey said in his postgame presser.
Early in the first quarter an 11-play, 69 yard drive ended in a missed field goal by Ryan Succop. It came after a dropped touchdown pass by Rishard Matthews, who finished with five receptions for 50 yards.
“Definitely was already kind of smelling the end zone,” Matthews said. “It is just one those things you wish you could have back.”
With another opportunity to extend the Titans lead to 11-points, another extended drive ended with a missed touchdown. A fumble by rookie Corey Davis at the goal line stalled a 10-play, 64-yard drive.
“It’s an experience he is going to learn from, next time put your shoulder down and barrel in,” Mularkey said on the play. “As a big receiver, you put the ball away at all costs.”
Missed opportunities are just that, when you can find ways to win.
And just like last week against Baltimore, Mariota led his team to a clutch, 12-play, 73-yard game-winning scoring drive.
A four minute drive capped off by a tough run by DeMarco Murray, who finished the game with three touchdowns.
Lawson with some great pressure here, but Mariota gets it off in time to Murray. Crosses the pylon, Titans take the lead.. pic.twitter.com/ecSbhneyrF
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) November 12, 2017
“I knew I was the outlet if things weren’t open,” Murray said on the play. “I left myself enough space to operate.”
Mariota gave his team confidence, despite being down 20-17 with five minutes remaining.
“He (Mariota) said, ‘We are about to win this game,’ wideout Taywan Taylor said on the final drive. “… We rally by him. That’s our quarterback. He is the engine of our offense. We can’t win without him.”
Mularkey called his team “resilient” and said it was “amazing they believe in themselves.”
Now, on a short week the Titans will look to do the same against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.
“Its another great offense we are facing,” said linebacker Derrick Morgan on the matchup. “We gotta be prepared and have to keep playing at a high level on defense.”
(Featured Photo: titansonline.com)