By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – October 27, 2019)
4-4. However you get it, you take it. The officials certainly helped, as did Jurrell Casey on fourth down, and as did Jameis Winston throwing at the Titans secondary a few too many times. It wasn’t an impressive day, but a win is a win. Here are my Big 6 Takeaways from the 27-23 win over the Buccaneers.
Seriously, none of us has any idea what the heck that play was. It nearly got Brett Kern killed, but the logic behind it fails on even the most basic level. Up four, you choose to go for a fake field goal rather than have Cody Parkey attempt a kick to put you up seven. Of all the questionable decisions he’s made as head coach of this team, this one MIGHT take the cake.
It should have penalized the Titans far worse than it did, as Kern fumbled the football before hitting the ground. Tampa Bay scooped up the ball and ran it into the end zone for what should have been a touchdown…but…
It’s becoming a broken record in the NFL, and if I’m Bruce Arians after this game, I’m absolutely furious. The referees must stop blowing plays dead when the view is obscured or when there’s any question as to whether the action should be stopped. It cost Tampa Bay the go-ahead touchdown that may well have been the game-winner in a contest where the Titans offense wasn’t exactly all systems go.
Nothing can be done about it right now, however the NFL will likely admit they blew the call and apologize to the Bucs for a loss that basically ends their season. It’s inexcusable. I know it benefited the home team today, but if this had been reversed, we’d be calling for people’s jobs. Objectively, we have to do the same when we recognize a mistake. It doesn’t change the result. The Titans won a game they needed to win, but it’s unfortunate for the Bucs.
It shouldn’t happen. This kind of thing can’t happen. Too much money, too many jobs are on the line, and guys killed themselves physically for 60 minutes in the country’s most violent team sport only for a crucial decision to be made by people that we THINK have eyes.
O-LINE CAN’T HANDLE TAMPA… THEY’RE NOT GOOD
It’s blunt, yes, but it’s also true. Tampa Bay entered the game with the top run defense in the league, and they lived up to it throughout much of this one, with Lavonte David standing out as he often does. Arthur Smith’s game plan seemed to place an outsized emphasis on Anthony Firkser, but at LEAST Ryan Tannehill remembered AJ Brown was on the field and found him for that touchdown. I still believe he’s emerging as the best WR on this team.
Corey Davis? I think if he was somewhere else, he’d be talked about among the league’s best. This team doesn’t maximize what he does and the OL doesn’t protect well enough to permit what he should be able to do. If you saw Mike Evans on Sunday, which how could you not, you saw what Corey Davis should be as a former number five overall draft pick at wide receiver. He had six “targets,” with quotes used for a reason there.
Maybe I shouldn’t be buying in, but I see his routes and I see far too many squandered snaps outside of his sphere of influence. But the larger problem…this offensive line continues to show holes and cost this team yards. 16 carries for 75 yards for Henry isn’t awful, but at some point, Smith realized his guys couldn’t block the opposition.
This was at times the penthouse and at times the outhouse, depending on where Mike Evans was on any given play. The first half in particular was disgraceful in terms of how the defense chose to try and contain 13 in white. Even Kevin Byard couldn’t cover him on one deep ball down the right side, but how many times did we need to see SIMS matched up with this guy before we realized he couldn’t handle the assignment?
How about zero? We knew it before we saw it happen the first time, but once it happened once, it definitely didn’t need to happen twice, or thrice, or who knows. On the day, Evans finished with 11 catches for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Tennessee adjusted and did better on him in the second half, but they also pressured Winston a bit more effectively and forced him into his usual string of turnovers. My prediction was the Titans would win because of Jameis’ propensity to throw to the guys in the other jerseys, of which Tennessee has some straight up ballhawks. I feel that’s basically what we got.
The corners on this team aren’t elite, and at times they look mediocre, but outside of Evans and a few plays to Godwin, who also has a bright future in this league, it’s still a strength of this team. The back end has been very good more often than not in 2019.
Whether it’s Marcus Mariota or Ryan Tannehill, this team doesn’t have the quarterback of the long-term future. We’ve known that for weeks, although we also know both guys are capable of winning a decent amount of games. Tannehill wasn’t great today, nor was his coordinator’s play calling, but the identity of the Tennessee Titans is pretty clear. Hope to be able to run the ball behind a shaky offensive line and win games on defense.
In fact, let your defense keep you in games long enough to make one play or allow for one bounce to go your way and find a way to win in bowling shoe ugly fashion. What Tannehill didn’t do today was throw an interception, and even though he didn’t hit 200 yards, his completion percentage was 63.6. He was more a game manager, but finished up with three touchdown passes. He was sacked three times.
Again, all he has to do is not lose the game and make a few plays here and there with this defense. Today, the defense wasn’t as good, but still, he didn’t make the key mistake or the key turnover that swings a Dub to an Ell.
Two straight home wins, with two more friendly games to go over the next three. The feeling was you had to come out of this 4-1 or 3-2 to have any shot at the postseason, especially with the Colts coming back behind an incredible Jacoby Brissett throw from the end zone to TY Hilton to set up a game winning FG over the Broncos. Tennessee ain’t winning the AFC South, and they’re still going to likely need some help, but you must win at home against teams on your level or beneath you.
The Bucs and Titans are similar in how they’re perceived, but this is one you had to have. Even though the officials were on your side late, you still got the win and you’re 4-4. You’re in the mix. It gets tougher going forward. But you’re in better shape today than you were last week and far better than you were two weeks ago. That’s a positive. But your offense is scary questionable, and the OL has to be better.
As does Vrabel. That decision today SHOULD have been disastrous, and as bad as it was, somehow it didn’t bite him as he deserved.
Next up, a trip to Carolina to play a good Panthers defense, an MVP darkhorse (that won’t win) in Christian McCaffrey, and maybe Cam Newton’s return. That’s going to be a tough one to win… and then you come home to play Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. 4-6 seems really possible, before the Jags come to town in an obvious must win. 2-1 over the next three would be advantageous. But you know what I’ve said, following the Denver and Buffalo losses, the season was over.
They won’t make the playoffs. The margin for error is too small. We’ll see if they can prove me wrong. They’ll be tested over the next two games, particularly this defense against the Chiefs in two weeks. 4-4 at least has us interested and not completely apathetic at this point. That’s a positive.