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Six Things to Watch in Titans-49ers Game on Sunday

Posted Dec 15, 2017

TitansOnline.com Senior Writer and Editor Jim Wyatt offers six things to watch in Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers.

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Titans face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in Santa Clara, California.

Here’s a look at six things to watch:

Marcus Mariota

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is coming off a frustrating week. He struggled against the Cardinals, throwing two interceptions in a contest where his passer rating was just 39.6. He was understandably in a bad mood at his post-game presser, and his mom gave him an earful about it. So a few days later, Mariota started off his media availability by apologizing to reporters for being “rude.” But back to football: On Sunday, Mariota will be looking to bounce back against a 49ers defense that’s ranked 25th in the NFL.

Jimmy G

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo passed for career-high 334 yards and a touchdown for 92.2 rating in Week 14 against the Texans. He has 627 pass yards in two career starts with San Francisco, the most by a 49ers quarterback in his first two starts with team since 1970. Garoppolo is one of four active quarterbacks to win each of his first four 4 career starts (two with NE last year; and two with 49ers). The Titans would like to nip all this in the bud, of course. 

Sack Attack

One way to slow down Garoppolo is by getting a steady stream of defenders in his face. The Titans have been a swarming bunch on defense. The team racked up eight tackles against the Cardinals, and the Titans have 20 sacks in the last three games. It’s the best three-game stretch in franchise history. In his previous starts, Garoppolo has gotten the ball out in a hurry. The Titans want to get there before he does. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey is coming off a two-sack performance.

More Derrick Henry?

Henry played just 13 snaps against the Cardinals, which led to questions about why he wasn’t involved more. Henry needs more touches, no doubt, but the Titans need to be more effective in the running game. A week after running for a season-high 198 yards against the Texans, the Titans managed just 54 between their two backs on the ground against the Cardinals. Running back DeMarco Murray (34 yards) and Henry (20 yards) had just 19 carries between them. The Titans need more.

Third down offense

Ask what the biggest problem is surrounding the 21st ranked Titans offense and you won’t hear Mariota, the running backs, the receivers, or the offensive line. Third down offense is the top reason given. The team’s inability to convert on third down has killed drives, and kept the team from getting into a rhythm early in games. The Titans are currently ranked 24th in the league on third down offense, converting just 36.4% of the time. The Titans were just 4-of-12 (33%) vs. Arizona. The Titans need to step it up here against a San Francisco defense ranked 27th in third down D.

Bounce in Step?

The Titans practiced all week at Arizona State University rather than traveling back to Nashville after last week. The team wanted to avoid two cross-country trips to avoid jet lag, and take advantage of warm weather for practices. Coaches say they saw an extra bounce in the players during the practice week, where the weather was perfect. Will it show at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday? Well, we’ll find out soon.