By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – September 15, 2019)
Well, that’s one you let slip away. That’s what you have to be thinking if you’re in that locker room as a Tennessee Titan, because that’s a football game you could have and should have won. On a day of emotion with the deserved tributes and jersey retirements of Steve McNair and Eddie George, the Titans walking nightmare against the Indianapolis Colts continued, but it wasn’t Andrew Luck. This time it was Jacoby Brissett.
Or was it? The answer is a little complicated. Here are my Big 6 Takeaways from the 19-17 loss to Indy on Sunday.
Today was a prime example of why I continue to call for a “common sense adviser” to be added to NFL coaching staffs. My wedding is seven days away and when I bought the ring, when I dropped that coin and signed away a lot of paychecks, you know what I did as soon as I picked it up six weeks later?
I went to my insurance agent and got a personal items policy on it. I spent a lot of money on a luxury item, gladly so, for the love of my life, but I wanted to mitigate our financial risk if it were to be lost or stolen or damaged.
NFL teams pay coaches millions of dollars, just as many college programs do. Yesterday we saw Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi make one of the most boneheaded illogical decisions in recent memory. You can have as many people on your staff as you want…why not have an insurance policy on your luxury item, your head coach, to save him from himself? It’s like handcuffing a running back in fantasy, making sure to have his backup incase he tears an ACL in the third week of the season.
Two baffling decisions from Vrabel were utterly indefensible on Sunday, and you can plausibly argue that the two mistakes ripped the victory out of the Titans grasp, especially if taken in tandem. The second Colts touchdown never happens if Vrabel challenges a very shaky pass interference call on Malcolm Butler as he covered TY Hilton outside the numbers on the right alleyway. Maybe it doesn’t get overturned, even though I believe it should have been, but what are you holding onto it for at that point in the game?
The other might have even been worse. Indy recognized on a fourth down play late in the game that the Titans were simply trying to get them to jump offsides, but in the process of Tennessee failing miserably because no one believed they’d snap the football, they drowned 40 seconds off the clock while they were TRAILING in the game, which made it easier for Indy to run out the clock and win the game.
These are mistakes NFL coaches get fired for…justifiably. I’m not calling for that. I’m saying it gets added to his “folder,” and the head coach was the biggest factor in why his football team lost today.
He’s not the guy. How many times do I have to say it? How much do we have to see to know it? He still refuses to throw the football away and takes sacks that devastate drives, put him in physical peril, and may have led to Cairo Santos’ first miss of the season, a FG that might have been the difference in a win or a loss. We are five years into Marcus’ career and he still says the same thing in all his postgame press conferences.
At this stage in his career, the fact he’s just unwilling to get the ball out of his hands, losing yards and taking hits, is enough for me to say it’s time for him to get the heck out of Nashville. He plays DUMB football far too often, including hurdling moves to get an extra half yard. Every time he pulls the football down and runs, you’re waiting to see him stay down after he gets hit. He was pulverized on Sunday by the Colts, both because their secondary played well and blanketed receivers, but also because his vision is questionable and he doesn’t make decisions quick enough.
Four sacks today and another one of these classic Mariota games where the numbers aren’t impressive in the least, matching the performance. He goes 19/28 for a measly 154 yards, tries to throw a couple of INTs that are dropped, but at no point has the afternoon consistency to get the job done.
I’ve tried to wait and see, but I’ve also told you he’s not the guy. I’m no longer waiting to see. He’s flat out not the guy, and if the Titans pay him, it’s their funeral. Cut bait. He’s not going to win you a Super Bowl. You can’t trust his health. Even worse, you can’t trust his accuracy seven yards down the field. He missed Corey Davis near the sidelines, which didn’t surprise me, because he almost never throws there. He has a lot of potential. But after five years, that’s not good enough.
Jacoby Brissett stands 6’4″ and weighs 238, so it’s not as easy to bring him down as a lot of QBs, but on three separate occasions on Sunday, the Titans got hands on him but couldn’t wrap him up and muscle him to the ground, and on two of them, he found a way to make something out of nothing and extend drives. The Titans got to Baker Mayfield, but we knew Frank Reich wouldn’t let that happen in this one, because his offense is largely predicated on quick throws and the QB being abrupt to strike or to check down or to bail. Last week against the Chargers, Brissett held the ball on average for less than 2.5 seconds after the snap.
But, when you get to the opposing quarterback, you’ve got to bring him down. The Titans didn’t do a good job of it on Sunday and it cost them dearly. In addition, Tennessee had difficulty with the Colts rushing attack, which was very workmanlike and unspectacular until the big 55-yard tote from Jordan Wilkins in the fourth quarter that set up the game winning score. There was enough of Marlon Mack bouncing off for a few more yards here and there, mixed with not corralling Brissett, and that kept some drives alive and gave the Titans offense less of an opportunity.
The Titans defense has largely been very good this season, and for sure we recognize they didn’t get much help on Sunday from anybody not named Derrick Henry.
…on third down. That’s unacceptable and it’ll get you beat every time. That’s 10% on the most crucial down on any series, amidst any drive. The one conversion came on the first touchdown drive, courtesy of a reception from Delanie Walker on 3rd and 2. And that’s the key. Make it a manageable down and distance and stay in front of the chains.
More often than not on Sunday, the Titans were the opposite, which led to a busy afternoon for Brett Kern and the punting unit. Outside of the 3rd and 2 that clicked, here’s how the rest of it went in terms of yards to go, and you know all of these failed.
13, 7 (pass for 6), 8 (holding made it 18, sack and fumble), 17, 15 (long FG), 10 (penalty after it failed gave them auto first), 5 (Mariota loses 7 on a sack), 5 (Mariota overthrows Walker), 10, 2 (spiked to stop clock).
To call that bad doesn’t scratch the surface. Credit the Colts for making it difficult, but you’re going to lose a lot of football games when you’ve got THAT to overcome on a conflict down. 1-10. ONE FOR TEN. Nope. Donezo.
HUMPHRIES EXISTS FOR WHAT EXACTLY?
Adam Humphries caught two passes on Sunday for -1 yard. He was on the sidelines watching, standing next to AJ Brown and Darius Jennings watching a Titans drive. I’m not saying he’s useless. I believed him to be the best acquisition of the offseason, but either Arthur Smith hasn’t figured out what to do with him yet or they’re giving Tajae Sharpe too many reps, because THAT guy is the one that moves the chains for you and he’s not out there.
What he did in Tampa Bay last year is exactly what he should be doing for the Titans, but he isn’t. I’m not sure what the issue is here, but with Mariota out here holding the ball for an eternity, at least use Humphries in the middle of the field instead of weirdly a few yards off the ball in the flats. It made no sense. Two weeks and he’s been almost non-existent. Thursday, you have to hope they start to get that right, because it’s been brutal thus far this season.
It’s wide open but now the Colts get you again and they’re in the driver’s seat. If it comes down to the Wildcard, last week’s win over Cleveland could prove immense, but with a few other teams playing surprisingly strong football in other AFC divisions, it’s not likely to be easy. Now there’s a quick turnaround for a Titans/Jags game on Thursday night that will again be lamented by the rest of the country. 2-0 Titans, maybe there’s a little pizzazz there, but not the 1-1 Titans fresh off a home loss to the Colts on the day Eddie George and Steve McNair were honored.
There’s a lot of football left to be played and many crazy things left to happen, but this should be deflating if you’re a Titans fan. The reason is simple. You had them. You had them in your building and your coach and your quarterback managed to be less than adequate. Reich and Indy really didn’t take a shot at any point in the game, which is a credit to the back end of Pees’ defense, but it still ends up being a “1” in the column you don’t want it in.
The Titans own the Jags, and the expectation should be they go dominate Minshew and Jacksonville on TNF, with Derrick Henry, who needs to be focused on more than he was on Sunday, trying to recreate some of what we saw the last time these two teams battled on a Thursday.
1-1 ain’t the end of the line, but this is a bad taste in your mouth because it SHOULD be 2-0. When you’re that close and you can look and point fingers of blame sensibly to explain why your team lost that game, that stinks. Today, Mike and Marcus did enough to benefit Indy to help a pretty pedestrian Colts performance be enough to beat you. We’ll see what happens in four days in Jacksonville.