Tennessee abandons the run, lean on Mariota’s arm in loss to the Cardinals.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota had another bad outing, and he knew it.
"I've been hurting our team. I have to find ways to get better."
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) December 11, 2017
Mariota hasn’t been able to replicate last season’s success. The red zone assassin of 2016 has yet to be seen this year.
There are many reasons. Lingering mental cobwebs have caused Mariota to play hesitant at times, especially when his pass protection dissolves almost immediately. Pocket awareness and hanging in the pocket have been affected by a collapsing interior offensive line.
Mariota’s uncertainty is glaring. It’s as if he’s battling his natural football instincts out of fear of injury, causing him to have a few microseconds of perplexed timidness that result in either a poorly executed play or a turnover. In the NFL, a few microseconds can be the difference in, not only winning or losing on the play, but winning or losing the game.
Mariota has three games remaining to figure it out. The Titans playoff hopes rest squarely on #8’s shoulders.
The coaching and playcalling this season have been questioned on a weekly basis. After the loss to Arizona, more scrutiny is deserved.
Head coach Mike Mularkey and his staff want to win games their way, even at the expense of the offensive talent. Offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie’s play calls are head scratching, at best. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who was heavily criticized early in the season has figured it out and has the defense playing really good football.
Mularkey electing to go for it on 4th down with one yard to go was a catastrophic failure. It was not a smart football decision. The Titans offense was struggling to get points on the board and having a hard time staying on the field. In games like this, the defense needs as much rest as possible if the offense is not rewarding their efforts with points.
The failed attempt, which was originally ruled a conversion, was haunting.
It’s 7-3, with over seven minutes left to play in the third quarter in the Titans own territory. There is no reason to go for it. Punt the football, be confident in your defense’s ability to hold and live to play another series. Instead, Arizona was spotted great field position. Fortunately, the defense still was able to hold the Cardinals to three instead of seven. However, in this game every point mattered.
The following Titans series resulted in miscommunication between Mariota and Rishard Matthews resulting in an interception. Arizona would orchestrate a 10 play drive and miss the field goal, keeping the Titans within striking distance. Instead, Tennessee would run twice for seven yards and throw short of the sticks.
The momentum shifted to the Cardinals, who would not relinquish their grip.
In Titans last hope to convert a 4th and medium, Adoree’ Jackson was the target. With the game on the line, the coaches didn’t put faith in their pass catchers to get the job done.
That is a problem.
Heading into the game, the Titans were 10-0 when Derrick Henry touched the ball more than nine times.
On Sunday, Tennessee gave Henry the ball eight times for 20 yards and a touchdown. Henry last touched the ball in the third quarter with a little over eight minutes left. He failed to convert on third and one, and did not see another carry.
The Titans had five more series, Henry was not a factor in any of them. Henry’s bulk of success usually emerges in the fourth quarter. Instead, the Titans coaches, aware that Mariota was suffering a knee injury, decided to try to win through the air. That approach resulted in two interceptions, inability to control the clock and no opportunity for Henry to break away for the big run late in the game.
Moving forward, the Titans have to trust in Henry. Even if he has a few carries for a loss or no gain, he deserves to carry the ball more than eight time again. If the Titans want to play in the postseason, Henry needs to be utilized. Double-digit carries are now paramount.
It’s time Henry’s role increases, even if the spark isn’t seen in his first nine touches.
With Jacksonville defeating Seattle, the Titans now find themselves in second place of the AFC South. Tennessee remains in the playoff hunt, but performances like Sunday won’t help punch their ticket.
Players have to play better. Coaches have to coach better.
Over the next three weeks, the Titans face a new look 49ers team that found out how to win behind the arm of Jimmy Garoppolo, one of the best teams in the NFC in the Los Angeles Rams and the reigning division leading Jaguars to end the season.
The road to the postseason is a bumpy ride. The Titans won’t be able to put it in cruise control at this point in the season.
It’s time to kick in into four-wheel drive.
Stats referenced at NFL.com and ESPN.com
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