By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – October 7, 2018)
Just go beat a bad football team. That was the mantra. Sure, the Bills season is on the line, but they know they’re bad, and you know they’re bad. Josh Allen is a rookie with a cannon who gives you maybe 2 good throws out of every 8 he attempts. You talk all week and decry Kyle Brandt on NFL Network for supposed shots against the team and the city.
And then you do that. (Shhhhh GIF of your choice here)
Here are my Big 6 Takeaways from the 13-12 loss to Buffalo that should be the wake-up call that this team is still miles from where they need to be if they truly be seen as a legitimate AFC contender.
ARETHA HAS LEFT THE BUILDING
Okay, it’s now time to be quiet. It’s also time to listen to national media bury you this week for jawing about not being taken seriously, and then playing the Bills in a manner in which you appeared not to take them seriously. You lost. You lost to Buffalo and Josh Allen, when your defense only gave up 13 points. You turned it over, you dropped passes, you made errant throws, you were bullied in the trenches, and you beat yourself.
So the slogans have to go, the whining has to go, and really the voices just have to go. You could have been 4-1 if you just did what good teams do and beat a bad football team. You couldn’t do it, even given many chances, even with shots after a trio of turnovers.
This was an uninspired, unenthusiastic, gross performance across the board, except for Ryan Succop and a small group of guys, most of whom did their jobs in a non-stat sheet kind of way and just played football.
THAT FIRST HALF
We’re starting here. You talk about wanting respect and “woe is me” nationally, you show the heck up against a below average Bills team with a rookie quarterback. Or you stay quiet after the fact. You can only say “For the Boys” so many times (and I sort of wish you wouldn’t say it at all) before you have to actually go out and win a football game. In that first half hour of terrible football, Taywan Taylor fumbles on the opening drive, Mariota tries to find Nick Williams inside the numbers and gets picked, Mariota then nearly throws an INT in the red zone on yet another questionable decision under pressure, Ben Jones is called for a hold that sets up a 1st and 20, and the play call is a DRAW.
The defensive line was bullied up front by the Bills OL, leading to nine first downs for Buffalo, mainly due to the run game. McCoy had space and he had push. It was just an ugly half for Tennessee, but luckily it was for Buffalo as well. Inexplicably, Sean McDermott called a fake field goal up 7-3 inside the 15 yard line, outsmarting himself, and it went poorly. He challenged a spot on a Corey Davis first down and lost.
It was losing losing losing football, but the Bills didn’t take advantage, because they’re the Bills. The Titans had a chance to win this game early, middle, and late, but they honestly deserved this L based on the performance.
LACK OF MR. CLEAN?
The Titans committed 3 penalties for 20 yards in the first half and finished with 5 for 40, so still not terrible there. They’ve been good as of late in that category, as Tennessee had just 8 in the past two games combined. Drops have been a different story, as they have victimized Titans QBs all season. Last week, Darrius Jennings had a key bobble in OT, but Tennessee still found a way to win in overtime.
You can’t consistently win making those mistakes though, and Nick Williams proved it as he dropped a surefire fourth quarter touchdown. It was such a bad drop that, along with bad play all day from 14 outside of a punt return, he should probably be on the chopping block for this team as a result. I wonder how Rishard Matthews felt watching that one.
Marcus wasn’t good today either as the INT intended for Williams was a mixture of a bad route and a bad decision. LaFleur chose not to let him run very much at all, as social media erupted when Mariota hurdled a Bills linebacker in the fourth quarter. It was newsworthy because it was his first real rushing attempt of the game.
Taywan Taylor fumbled in the first quarter and it led to the first and only Bills touchdown of the afternoon. Dion Lewis fumbled in the third quarter and it led to the first of two Bills field goals. After being solid in the turnover category all season, Tennessee was -2.
And on the scoreboard?
Largely because of those problems…
Tennessee was -1.
WOODYARD’S ABSENCE MEANT A LOT, PARTICULARLY AGAINST THE RUN
Wesley Woodyard has been, along with Casey and Kern, the best Titan this season. Last week, he exited and Jayon Brown picked up the slack, finishing with 12 tackles. Buffalo rushed for 65 first half yards that felt like far more watching it. McCoy had 13 carries for 41 yards and a few more in the receiving game, which was shocking when you saw the numbers, because he seemed to have his way when he had the ball. He really didn’t.
The DL struggled up front mightily in the early going and made sure the Bills crowd was loud off the jump. The second half saw more of McCoy and a lot more of Chris Ivory, who was the physical back Derrick Henry wasn’t on Sunday. 14 for 43 for Ivory and 24 for 85 for MCoy. Shady also caught a pair for 23 yards, and of course Josh Allen scored on the ground for the game’s only touchdown.
The defense wasn’t bad, but they weren’t particularly good and they were manhandled during crucial stretches of action. Adoree Jackson made another solid play down the field as he deflected an Allen pass to himself for a second half INT, but the Titans again could not muster more than a field goal.
The offense gave them no help and they only gave up one touchdown and a pair of field goals. You should win those games. When you don’t, you start asking questions.
SUCCOP IS MR. IRRELE… CONSISTENT
Four field goals for Ryan Succop in Buffalo, including a 50 and a 54 yarder, the latter tying his career high. He was 4-4. He’s 9-10 on the season and 6-6 on extra points. Do you realize how many teams we’ve seen blow games and sometimes then fire place-kickers after bad misses this year alone? For his career, he’s 83.5% overall, which includes an 18-33 from 50+, which isn’t particularly bad either.
Last year he was 35-42 as he was used much more often with the Titans in FG position rather than punting a lot, and was 17-17 inside 40 yards. That’s one of his worst years. In the three seasons prior as a Titan, Succop is 55-62.
He’s been what you want a kicker to be, a guy you believe is going to convert for you. You’re not crossing fingers with your PK if you’re a Tennessee Titans fan, and that’s a blessing, especially in the most thankless position in all of sports. No one talks about him because he doesn’t give you a reason to be negative.
So I’m going to be positive and give him props today.
SUPER MARIO NEEDED AN INVINCIBILITY STAR
The stars in THAT game make you faster and encourage you to run through levels quickly as you’re impervious to damage. Because there were no stars in this game, in more ways than one, you have to run your athletic quarterback. He had two carries for ten yards on a day where receivers dropped balls, ran poor routes, and where backs were pedestrian yet again.
Marcus can run and we all know it. For as much as we’ve praised Matt LaFleur over the past month, and deservedly so, today’s game plan left quite a bit to be desired, especially as it relates to utilizing Mariota. He didn’t pass it well, but the OL didn’t help matters. We didn’t see a lot of RPO, which could have helped after Lewan went down, but Marcus finished up 14-26 for 129 and an INT, no TDs courtesy of Nick Williams.
It was one of those days. Marcus looked very good last week, not so much today, and his OC didn’t help him, his OL didn’t help him, his WRs didn’t help him, his RBs didn’t really help him, and he didn’t help himself.
What looked like it could be a tasty 4-1 vs. 4-1 matchup next week in Nashville between the Ravens and Titans is now two 3-2 teams battling after neither scored a single touchdown on Sunday against the BROWNS and the BILLS. Expect shrugged shoulders from everybody outside the two cities, and that’s going to be a tough ballgame Tennessee needs to win before heading overseas to play San Diego.
Jacksonville losing to Kansas City helps in terms of still being in charge of the division, but this is a bad loss that feels pretty deflating. Was it a trap game? You’re the Tennessee Titans. The term “trap game” shouldn’t even exist. You had a pretty good month. Unfortunately there are 12 more games to play, and you choose to start talking at 3-1 and now… you’re 3-2 and fingers are crossed Lewan’s MRI comes back okay tomorrow.
Nothing much positive comes from this, except that you realize how much is left to be done and maybe the team stops believing its own hype. It’s a long season. Talk after you do something, not at the end of September, at least not if you’re not going to get off the plane in Buffalo.