By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – October 14, 2018)
I’ve attended two major football games this season in person. The first was in Knoxville as Tennessee battled Florida. The second was Sunday as the Ravens came to Nashville to play the Titans. Perhaps I should rethink ever going to another game again.
I have truly nothing positive to write about this debacle. It was as inept and embarrassing as a pro football team can look over 60 game minutes. Sometimes I try to spin something intriguing off the top of these articles, but I got nothing.
Here are the Big 6 Takeaways from the 21-0 no-show from the Tennessee Titans against the Baltimore Ravens at Nissan Stadium.
Scott Kacszmar of Football Outsiders tweeted late in the afternoon a stat that should leave everyone on the Titans offensive line, as well as Marcus Mariota himself, not just scratching their heads, but ducking them in shame. They were brutal and delivered a far worse performance this week than what they trotted out last week up north in Buffalo.
Here’s a stat for you: Dan Marino finished six seasons of his Hall of Fame career as the starting quarterback in Miami with ten sacks or less, two of which were complete 16-game seasons.
The Ravens took Mariota down 11 times on Sunday. Mariota had just ten completions. They dropped him early, they dropped him late, they dropped him repeatedly, sometimes with force, and left him unable to do anything but run for his life on virtually every snap. The level of pressure the Ravens brought was stout, but the offensive line played matador far too often and made a lot of it look easy.
Eight different Ravens sacked 8 on the day, including three from Za’Darius Smith and two from Patrick Onwuasor. There was NO protection for Mariota…but with that said…
MARCUS HAS BEEN BAD THE PAST TWO WEEKS
I listened to various people attempt to say Mariota wasn’t to blame for the Taywan Taylor overthrow because the back judge was in the way of the route. Sorry, not buying that one bit. I also listened and read people defending Marcus’ sacks and claiming he didn’t hold the ball too long on a few of them. They’re wrong. He did. He was under duress all day and no one will dispute that reality. It was an impossible day for him, but this is a larger concern.
I don’t understand the intricacies of the ulnar nerve situation, but I’m not giving it much credence anymore if he’s on the field playing. With the exception of the Philadelphia game, when is the last truly “great” Mariota performance as quarterback of the Titans? The Eagles have a terrible secondary, which shows just how done Eli Manning truly is.
Mariota has dealt with drops, including a sure touchdown last week that might have been a game winning play for Nick Williams, but he’s also showing himself to be pretty mediocre right now. This is what I’ve said for a while about him. He’s about the 20th best QB in the league, and that’s pretty much what he’s going to be. He’s just a guy. You want to root for him, but nothing tells you he’s someone to fear if you’re an opposing defense.
NFL QBs have to make that play to Taylor, they have to throw the ball away from time to time, and they have to avoid miscommunications with receivers that continue to crop up. His ball placement hasn’t been good and he appears to have no chemistry with any of his receivers or backs. Delanie Walker is sorely missed.
THIRD DOWN DISASTER
This is a tale of two teams, as the Ravens converted 10 of their first 11 third down situations, including their first seven in a row. They finished 12-17 and also moved the chains on their only fourth down try. The Titans were 1-10 on third downs in the game, many of them behind the down and distance due to penalties or losses via sacks or other miscues. 10% on third down for a football team is humiliatingly awful.
Third downs keep drives alive as both the chains and the clock keep moving. The Ravens had the football for 37:34 of a 60 minute game. To call this abysmal would be far too kind. The Titans defense couldn’t get off the field on third down, particularly when Joe Flacco passed. With the exception of the Kevin Byard interception, there’s basically nothing good to point to about the defense, and we already know the offense stunk up the joint.
It trended in this direction early and felt like a lost cause kind of game, but what was so obnoxious about it was it was just a 14-0 game at the half. Just come out with ONE sustained drive and put up some points, score a touchdown, and it’s a new ballgame. It wasn’t out of reach, but the Titans couldn’t muster up anything. Six first downs, a seventh came as a result of a Ravens penalty.
That’s historically bad, and it led to the first shutout loss in the history of Nissan Stadium.
MATT LAFLEUR IS…I DON’T KNOW, DO YOU?
It feels like years since we were singing the play calling praises of the Eagles win. The offense in Buffalo was uninspired, dull, and flawFULLY executed. This week was somehow worse. How many first downs were Derrick Henry running straight forward and gaining one yard? This offensive line proved it couldn’t handle the ferociousness and physicality of the Ravens up front, yet the Titans chose to hand it off over and over again.
We aren’t seeing anywhere near enough screens or designed QB runs for Mariota. Corey Davis has been on a milk carton the past two weeks after being everywhere against the defending champions. I hesitate to bury anybody individually for the offense’s stagnation, because the OL struggles have taken away much of the possible rhythm or chunk yardage that can come with TIME and SPACE. Neither exist for the Titans offense right now.
And it’s going to get tougher against the Chargers, who are rolling right now amidst the best year in Philip Rivers’ career. LaFleur has to start taking a little bit of the criticism now, and we have to examine every facet of what we’re seeing. Sure, it would take time to get used to the new offense. But this is another level of terrible.
MALCOLM BUTLER IS A BUST
He was a Patriot, so was Dion Lewis, so was…and he’s now a Titan. “Foxboro South” is something I’ve heard about this team in reference to Jon Robinson and the way he’s built this team. Well, if that’s the case, he should have placed a phone call to Bill Belichick before signing 21, because this guy is done.
It’s irrelevant why he didn’t play against Philly in the Super Bowl, but you can certainly speculate that he would have been torched even worse than his replacements by Nick Foles and company. Butler has been beaten at least once on a big play to a receiver in every game this season, and today was his worst performance. He was abused multiple times and committed penalties that didn’t even detract from the success of the play. Michael Crabtree caught a ball after taking an illegal hand to the face during the route. John Harbaugh declined it because, as you read one sentence ago, “Michael Crabtree CAUGHT A BALL.”
Butler couldn’t even cheat and get this thing to work. He gets in trouble in the first five yards off the ball and has to play catch up down the field. He hasn’t just been sub-par folks. Malcolm Butler is a liability on Dean Pees’ defense, but he’s making a good bit of money, so he’s still going to be out there. It’s a big issue.
TWO-TONED BLUE CANNOT RUN IT
14 carries today combined for the Titans and those totes netted 55 yards. Tennessee’s leading rusher was Marcus Mariota, who had 25 yards on two carries, mainly because he had 21 on one of the two or three highlights of the entire day. Derrick Henry had 7 carries for 21 yards and Dion Lewis had 5 carries for 9 yards.
Entering the game, the Titans were ranked 15th in the league in rushing yards, which is more an indictment of the league’s run game than anything else. The OL didn’t help matters today, but if you can’t run the football, you aren’t going to stay on the field very often. The Titans ran just 40 plays on Sunday against the Ravens. In contrast, Baltimore had 35 rush attempts, a mere five shy of Tennessee’s entire offensive snap total.
Henry is average at best, Lewis is a between the tackles runner that isn’t being used in the screen game all that much, and Marcus isn’t taking off with it very often. It’s a dead spot on an offense that is dead all around at this stage. This team hasn’t scored a touchdown since Corey Davis caught the game winner against Philadelphia. It’s eight quarters and counting, and Mariota has played in every one of them.
THE LAST WORD
The Titans were 3-1 after defeating the Eagles and the national media began to take notice. A few players came out and were upset they weren’t getting “RESPECT” and Head Coach Mike Vrabel came out this week and said he wanted the fans to come out in force for the Ravens game and show the team support. In back-to-back weeks against the Bills and the Ravens, the Titans have scored a total of 12 points. They haven’t touched the end zone once. On Sunday against Baltimore, they couldn’t even get near Ryan Succop’s range just to try a field goal.
A weak, wide open, “who knows” AFC remains there for the taking in many respects, and the Titans are still atop the AFC South. But, they looked bad today. Anybody can have a bad game, but not only was this hard to watch, it came off a rough game in Buffalo. This team looks fractured and unprepared. Delanie Walker and Wesley Woodyard both clearly meant the world to this football team.
Now, the Titans travel overseas to London to play the Los Angeles Chargers before the bye week. No one in their right mind will pick Tennessee to win that game, yet it’s the kind of game they sometimes do. The problem is, they also lose games like last week and then get obliterated as they did today against Baltimore. It’s the lack of consistency that leads the fans to stay home. The Cubs were lovable losers and sold out Wrigley with high prices all the time. Vols fans traveled to Auburn in force, paid high rates for ducats, and saw that win yesterday.
Winning certainly helps the cause, but what has to be combated in Nashville, particularly in the wake of the Predators rise, is an ugly, ugly word. It’s the best descriptor of this fan base right now, and it isn’t an overnight fix.
That word? Apathy.