How will the Titans rebound from an embarrassing performance on Thursday night in Pittsburgh
Mariota StrugglesThere is no way to sugar coat this one. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was horrendously inaccurate.
Tennessee’s defense kept the Titans within striking distance in the first half. The offense was unable to produce points and generate scoring drives. Mariota’s two first half interceptions resulted in six Pittsburgh points on two made field goals.
— NFL Updates (@NFLFastUpdates) November 17, 2017
Mariota’s began the second half on a positive note, chucking a deep bomb on the first play after the break to Rishard Matthews for the touchdown. What many Titans fans believed to be the beginning of the comeback would end up being the teams only touchdown for the remainder of the game.
Mariota tossed two more interceptions, resulting in only three Pittsburgh points.
Following the Bengals game, Head Coach Mike Mularkey reported Mariota had a shoulder and an ankle, but throughout the week, no Titans player was listed on the injury report. Mariota did not look right or comfortable in the offense. One has to wonder whether or not there is more to his shoulder/ankle injury than reported on.
One thing is for sure. The Titans can’t win with Mariota turning the ball over. The team is 0-7 when Mariota has thrown more than two interceptions.
Playcalling and Sustaining Drives
The Titans inability to gain any success on the ground has been detrimental to this team, especially in all four losses on the season.
Tennessee only managed to register 52 yards on the ground. Both the Titans and Steelers ran the football 21 times, with Pittsburgh gaining only 13 more yards. In fact, most of the stats between the two teams are nearly identical. The Steelers had just 20 more yards through the air, one less drive than the Titans and four less turnovers.
Had the Titans been able to avoid the costly turnovers and score on their offensive opportunities, the game could have and should have had a totally different outcome.
It was discussed yesterday, and it happened.
Antonio Brown shined and was impossible to stop. He racked up 144 on 10 receptions, hauling in three touchdowns – one of which he channeled his inner David Tyree and used his helmet for the assist. He had one fumble, but it didn’t matter. The Steelers recovered and managed to kick a field goal before half.
Brown was obviously a central focus of Pittsburgh’s plan of attack. Up until this point in the season, the Steelers had been force feeding Le’Veon Bell. Already on a staggering pace for rush attempts, Bell was an afterthought. He remained a threat, but it was clear through the Steelers 45 pass attempts.
Pittsburgh came into the game looking to sling the football.
Offensive Line regressed
The most unheralded position in football has the most impact on wins and losses. The Titans featured the leagues best offensive line groups last season. This year, they have failed to replicate the magic or production and it has hurt the team in a major way.
The interior offensive line’s inability to consistently clear space, maintain blocks or avoid getting bullied into the backfield has been damaging. It essentially makes the running game a non-factor. Neither DeMarco Murray nor Derrick Henry are the type of backs that can create their own opportunities or make the most out of a bad situation. When the defense’s habitually blow through the offensive line, Murray and Henry are helpless.
Even with extra linemen or two tight end sets, Tennessee’s offensive line has been a mess. They’ve had flashes, but nothing consistent.
Mariota has struggled to find the pocket, and even when he does, it collapses as quickly as it forms. He’s best when in the shotgun as it buys him a little extra time to make the throws he needs to make. He couldn’t make those throws last night.
If the Titans want to make the postseason, the offensive line has to improve. Mariota has to improve. The running backs have to improve. Coaches have to coach better and put the players in the best position to win.
Everybody needs to get better, otherwise a postseason berth could be slipping though their grasp.
Stats referenced at NFL.com and ESPN.com
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