NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Six things standing out for the Titans after Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, and heading into the bye week.
The Titans return to action on Nov. 5 In a Monday Night Football game at Dallas.
Mike Vrabel’s aggressive style of coaching has been noted in this space repeatedly this season. So I was surprised so many were surprised the Titans head coach went for two – and the win – on Sunday. It didn’t work, of course, so he’s being criticized. Personally, I understand the backlash of the actual play call more than the decision to go for it. Let’s face it – the play didn’t come close to working. But I have a hunch some of the same folks ripping Vrabel for the decision to go for two would have been even louder had the Titans kicked the extra point, and then lost without touching the ball in OT.
The Running Game
On too many Sundays, the Titans have been less than spectacular running the football. With the tandem of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, I know I expected the team to be better than 17th overall in rushing offense about now. But Sunday’s game vs. the Chargers provided a reason to be optimistic moving forward. Dion Lewis ran for 91 yards on just 13 carries, showing his elusiveness all game long. It was part of a 164-yard rushing day for the Titans, who got 33 yards and a touchdown out of Derrick Henry, and 38 more yards from Marcus Mariota.
The Titans are going to need more consistency from the receiving corps in the second half of the season. Through seven games, there have been too many drops and too many stretches with little productivity from key players. But on Sunday, I really liked what I saw from receiver Tajae Sharpe. Against the Chargers, Sharpe had seven catches for 101 yards, and he came up big time and again on third down. It should earn him more opportunities moving forward.
The Titans played well enough to win on defense against the Chargers, holding them to just 14 first downs. Take out the 55-yard completion and the 75-yard completion and the Titans held the Chargers to just 214 yards of offense on 42 plays. Only that’s the problem – you can’t remove those plays from the equation. So the Titans really gave up 344 yards, including the long TD catches. What the Titans have to do moving forward is keep from getting beat by deep balls, and blown coverages.
Return man Darius Jennings continues to do a really nice job on kickoff returns. How nice? Well, the Titans are ranked No.1 in the NFL in kickoff return average. Sure, special teams coach Craig Aukerman and the blockers deserve credit as well. But Jennings has earned some props, because he’s done a really nice job of being aggressive, and hitting it. Jennings, of course, returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown in the opener, and on Sunday he averaged 31.2 yard on five returns, giving the Titans good field position all game.
Division Wide Open
The Titans have hurt themselves in the race for a Wild Card spot. With losses to the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers, they’re in trouble when it comes to potential tiebreakers. But whose goal is to make the playoffs as a Wild Card anyway? The Titans entered the season with plans to win the AFC South, and the possibility is very much alive. The Texans (4-3) are one game ahead of the Titans (3-4) and Jaguars (3-4) in the division, with the Colts (2-5) bringing up the rear. The Titans are currently 2-0 in the division as well. The Titans control their own destiny. Now, the Titans need to quit letting opportunities escape their grasp and start winning games.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 7 of the 2018 season on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018 at Wembley Stadium in London. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)