NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Here’s a look at six things that stood out for the Titans in Sunday’s 25-23 loss to 49ers:
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota looked comfortable on Sunday, in large part because he was working primarily out of the team’s no-huddle offense. Mariota’s 110.8 rating was his highest of the season. He showed poise while staying in the pocket to make throws, and he delivered some nice passes in high-pressure situations. It might force the Titans to consider using the no-huddle more moving forward.
The Titans lost on a last-second field goal, but it wouldn’t have come down to that if the Titans would’ve made some plays during the course of the game. Tight end Delanie Walker dropped a would-be touchdown in the first half, and the Titans had to settle for a field goal on the drive. Late in the game, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson wasn’t able to haul in an interception that would’ve kept an earlier San Francisco field goal off the board.
Lapses on defense
The good news is the Titans stiffened up on defense when the 49ers neared their goal line. The 49ers kicked six field goals in the day, including Robbie Gould’s game-winner from 45 yards out at the horn. But the Titans allowed way too much yardage, and had way too many breakdowns on defense. Players said communication wasn’t very good. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 381 yards and a touchdown, and too many of his receivers were streaking uncovered in the Tennessee secondary.
Rare close loss**
The Titans took the lead 23-22 on Ryan Succop’s 50-yard field goal with 1:07 left. It came at the end of a nice drive led by Mariota. But the defense couldn’t hold, and it wiped off what would have been the fifth game-winning drive for Mariota this season. The Titans had been winning games like the one they lost on Sunday. In fact, the team posted a perfect 8-0 mark in the last eight games decided by four points or less. But unfortunately, the streak is over.
Solid on special teams**
Punter Brett Kern punted just twice – for a 55.5-yard average. Succop made all three of his field goals, including the go-ahead kick under pressure. Succop also executed a nice pop-up kick after the 49ers were flagged for a 15-yard penalty, and it backed them up. I also thought the Titans did a nice job in coverage, with cornerback Tye Smith, safety Da’Norris Searcy and linebacker Daren Bates all making nice hustle plays, and tackles. It was an overall solid day on special teams. The return game is surprisingly still lacking, however.
3rd and 2 play the killer
Blame the call, or blame the execution. But everyone can agree on this: The killer play in Sunday’s game was the team’s inability to convert a 3rd and 2 from the San Francisco 32-yard line with just 1:12 left. On the play, running back DeMarco Murray took the handoff from Mariota, things blew up in the middle, and Murray was tackled for no gain. Mariota kicked himself afterward for not checking out of the run to a pass. A first down there and Succop’s kick would’ve ended it the other way. Murray getting stuffed gave San Francisco enough time to drive the field and, well, we all know what happened….
The Tennessee Titans take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15 at Levi's Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)