The Titans were one of the media’s off-season darlings. Coming off of a year in 2020 led by a top-three offense, they added Julio Jones, and the sky was the limit for them. Fast forward to today, and the Titans are coming off of one of the more embarrassing losses from the weekend.
The Cardinals controlled the game from the jump, and after jumping out to a 17-0 lead, the Titans were never able to really make the game competitive again. The offense was inconsistent, and the defense was just as bad as they were in 2020. It was an all-around ugly performance. That being said, the 2021 season is far from lost for the Titans.
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So What Exactly Went Wrong?
Offensively, there are a couple of culprits leading to the egg they laid on Sunday. I think the leading issue was just rust. The offensive starters didn’t take a single snap in the preseason in live-action, and you could tell it early in the game. The offensive line was manhandled off the rip. Receivers were dropping catchable balls. Even the play calling was in preseason form.
Coming off of a season in which QB Ryan Tannehill threw 12 touchdowns off of play-action passes, the Titans attempted two all game against Arizona. For a QB that is as good off of play-action as Tannehill is, that is nowhere near enough attempts. That number has to go up exponentially to see that same level of success the offense had last season.
The running game, which generally sets up the play-action game to some extent, was also pretty bad as well. Taking out Tannehill’s two scrambles for 17 yards yesterday, Titans’ backs accounted for 20 carries and 69 yards. Just absolutely brutal for a team that’s predicated on its ability to run the football.
Defensively, I think the easier question to answer was what wasn’t wrong with the unit? The entire unit struggled all game, with the only commendable performances coming from DL Jeffery Simmons and CB Kristian Fulton. Kyler Murray had his way accounting for five total touchdowns. Tennessee’s third-down defense was again atrocious, allowing Arizona to go 7-13 (53.8%) on third downs.
Pass coverage was again the biggest issue for the Titans secondary. In coverage, Jackrabbit Jenkins, Elijah Molden, Kevin Byard, and Rashaan Evans combined to allow 15-19 for 186 yards and 4 TDs. While Byard did have the one pick, that INT, two sacks (Simmons and Landry) along with Kristian Fulton allowing just one catch over five targets for four yards were the only positives to take away from the defense that spent A LOT of money and draft capital trying to revamp the porous unit.
In short, the secondary couldn’t cover, the front seven couldn’t tackle, and it was just an all-around ugly game from the unit.
That’s A Lot Of Negatives. Why Should Fans Relax?
Well, to be honest, outside of the national perspective, this game doesn’t truly matter in the grand scheme of things. Yes, it would be great to be 1-0. However, with ARI being a team from the NFC, outside of the record itself, the loss doesn’t impact much else for playoff tiebreakers. With Indy losing as well, this game really doesn’t mean much at this point in the year, nor does Week Two against Seattle, in all honesty.
The bigger reason I’m choosing not to worry too much at this point in the year is simple. The Titans have proven to be a better team than that under Mike Vrabel. They are too talented of a team for this to be a consistent thing. It’s the NFL, and Arizona is a superbly talented team. The Titans came out sloppy, and it cost them. It happens.
The bigger thing to watch for will be how they respond over the next couple of weeks. If the poor play on both sides of the ball continues, we’ll have something to talk about. But for now, after one week, I’m not going to fret too much. It’s a long season, and there are still 16 games left to turn this thing around. Every goal the Titans have for this season is still in reach.
Stats courtesy of ESPN, PFF, and Bleacher Report.