By: Justin Hawkins
“I’m tired of saying it, I’m tired of hearing ‘We have to figure it out. We didn’t do enough’. When are we going to do enough to win?”
– Titans DT Jeffery Simmons
Sunday’s game in Jacksonville marked their third straight road game and third straight road loss for the Tennessee Titans. When it comes to finding success on the road, the Titans are lost and left wondering how they can win. But, this week they are back home at Nissan Stadium after Thanksgiving ready to put the struggles behind them and get back in the win column as they take on a struggling Carolina Panthers team with just one win on the season.
Last Time Out
The Tennessee Titans couldn’t get anything going for them last Sunday in Jacksonville as they were beat up 34-14 and add another divisional loss to their season. The Titans fell to 3-7 on the season and 0-2 in the AFC South making them last place in the division and 15th in the AFC.
The Titans on the offensive line are beat up and the talent is sparse. Tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere is on injured reserve, tackle Andre Dillard missed Sunday’s game due to a concussion, and tackle Chris Hubbard left Sunday’s game early with an elbow injury and was ruled out for the season earlier this week. Still though, the Titans and quarterback Will Levis only took two sacks on the game, but it was the consistent pressure that was the overwhelming deciding factor. The Titans only ran 38 plays on offense, with two of those plays being kneel downs to end the 1st half and the end of the game. Center Aaron Brewer is becoming a liability on the line as bad snaps in the shotgun are happening far too often. This was the case on the Titans second offensive possession of the game and resulted in a turnover. With the lines struggle of blocking, whether that be in pass protection or run protection, the Titans are struggling to create any momentum.
The Titans were out-gained by 154 yards Sunday, 235 to the Jaguars 389. Rookie quarterback Will Levis went 13-of-17 for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The bulk of his yardage total and touchdowns came in the second half with a 43 yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins at the end of the third quarter. Levis’ other touchdown pass came on a trick play with Jeffery Simmons lined up as the fullback on the 2 yard line as Levis tossed it up to Simmons for his first touchdown of his career. Hopkins finished as the Titans leading receiver with four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Running back Derrick Henry only had 10 carries for 38 yards.
The Titans defense struggled on the day as well. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence went 24-of-32 for 262 yards and two touchdowns as well as adding two rushing touchdowns as well. Jags receiver Calvin Ridley had a break out game as he caught 7 passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns. The Titans were able to sack Lawrence just once, and it was by safety Terrell Edmunds.
The story of the game was possession time, first downs, and turnovers. The Jaguars had the ball for 36:26 to the Titans 23:34, had 24 first downs to the Titans 12, and forced the Titans to two turnovers. The second turnover was a fumble by punt returner Eric Garror towards the beginning of the 4th quarter.
The Carolina Panthers, led by rookie quarterback Bryce Young, have been more than an underwhelming football team this season and that continued once again this past Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys as they lost 33-10 at home.
The Panthers were out-gained by 124 yards, 187 to the Cowboys 311. Rookie quarterback Bryce Young continues to struggle in this Panthers offense as he went 16-of-29 for just 123 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also added a lost fumble as well on a strip sack in the 4th quarter. His lone interception on the day was taken back for a touchdown by Cowboys’ defensive back DaRon Bland, his 4th defensive touchdown of the season. The Cowboys defense continued its strong push as they sacked Young seven times, including 2.5 sacks by linebacker Micah Parsons.
The Panthers rushing attack is lead by the duo of Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders. The two combined for 107 yards rushing, Hubbard with 57 and Sanders with 50. The Panthers only touchdown on the day came from a short 4 yard completion to tight end Tommy Tremble.
Bryce Young’s favorite weapon is clearly wide receiver Adam Thielen, who had eight catches for 74 yards Sunday on 11 targets.
For the Panther’s on defense, they struggled to generate much success. They allowed Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to 25-of-38 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboys punted just three times in the game and only one three and out, which came on the first possession of the game. The Cowboys were solid on fourth down as they converted all three of their attempts.
Like the Titans, the Panthers demise was the amount of 1st downs compared to their opponent. The Panthers had 13 compared to the Cowboys 23.
Two struggling teams enter Nissan Stadium this Sunday with both riding three game losing streaks. The Titans have yet to lose this season when playing at home, and the Panthers (like the Titans) have yet to win on the road. All-time, the Titans and the Panthers have met six times in the regular season, and they have never met in the postseason. The six game series is tied at three games a piece. When playing the Panthers at home, the Titans are just 1-2 in their history.
We are entering the holiday season as Thanksgiving approaches this week and Christmas and New Years on the near horizon. So with the Titans consistent struggles on the road, maybe a little family time, good food, and relaxation is what the doctor ordered for them to get back on track and finish the season strong with five home games remaining on the schedule, including this Sunday.
The Titans, on offense, enter Sunday clearly struggling and it starts with the banged up offensive line. Andre Dillard, concussion, is questionable, and tackles Nicholas Petit-Frere and Chris Hubbard are on injured reserve. Rookie Jaelyn Duncan will get an opportunity to make his case on the roster for the foreseeable future. But, the rankings for this line and the offense as a whole do not look good. The Titans rank 27th in yards per game with 286.0, 31st in sacks/pass attempt at 12.11%, 27th on 3rd down at 33.06%, 26th in points per game at 16.8, and 31st in red zone at 34.48%. The good news for the Titans is that the Panthers on defense are not great in those areas, 27th in sacks/pass attempt at 5.78%, 31st in points/game at 27.5, and 31st in red zone at 70.59%. This would be a great time for the Titans to find their way on offense and gain confidence.
The Panthers enter week 12 looking to find their way and put together a decent football game. On offense, they sit averaging 343.1 yards/game (22nd), 16th in points per game 21.4. The one area that stands out that the Titans defense will have to keep watch for is that the Panthers are converting 37.84% of their red zone trips, which marks the second best in the league. The biggest problem for them is they do not make it there very often. But, the Titans are the 31st worst team in the league at limiting the opposing offense as they give up 266.7 yards per game.
All of the struggles each team has had this season will come to a battle in struggle versus struggle. On paper, the Titans are far and away the better team, but they continue to be inconsistent. If the Titans can be stout against the run, the Panthers will be forced to throw the ball and that is where turnovers can happen with Young at the helm. But, the Titans can be easily beaten by Adam Thielen. I suspect a double team on Thielen at times to make Young go to his other weapons.
Carolina Panthers (1-10) vs. Tennessee Titans (3-7)
Time: November 26 @ 12:00 PM CT
Location: Nissan Stadium (Nashville, TN)
TV Broadcast: FOX (WZTV FOX 17 Locally)
TV Broadcast Crew: Adam Amin, Mark Schlereth, Kristina Pink
Radio: Titans Radio (104-5 The Zone)
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Ramon Foster, Rhett Bryan
Referee: Ron Torbert
Line: TEN -3.5
Keys To The Game
Derrick Henry Over 20 Carries
Derrick Henry, this season, has not been the same running back most fans have been accustomed to in years past. The struggles start with the poor play of the offensive line, but also has been due to his vision and lack of burst. However, Henry is still sixth in the NFL in rushing this season with 663 yards. In each of the Titans home games, Henry has rushed the ball with over 20 carries and the Titans have won. He had 25 against the Chargers, 22 against the Bengals, and 22 against the Falcons. Away from Nissan Stadium, Henry has not amassed 15 carries and the Titans have lost. Until the narrative changes, let Henry fight for his carries and yardage and let the success run its course.
Titans at Home
This season, the Titans are 3-0 at home, but are 0-7 away from Nissan Stadium. While the team has not had fans much to look forward to when on the road, they do bring the excitement at home in front of those fans. Sunday, against a one win Carolina Panthers team, I suspect that number to grow to 4-0.
Get The Ball Out Early
The protection up front for the Titans offensive line has been terrible this season and give up the 31st worst sack/pass attempts in the league at 12.11%. For Will Levis to stay up right and the offense to move the football, the Titans need to start drawing up short passing plays to get the ball out of Levis’ hands and quick. Short crossing routes to running back Tyjae Spears, Kyle Philips, and DeAndre Hopkins could be imperative.
Force Feed D-Hop
The connection between Will Levis and DeAndre Hopkins through four games has been solid. 274 yards with four touchdowns on 15 catches. Hopkins is clearly Levis’ favorite and best target. This Sunday, and the rest of the season, Hopkins should be force fed by Levis if the Titans want to continue to have success in the passing game and open up other options in the offense.
Big Jeff Domination
The domination from Jeffery Simmons last week was felt by Jacksonville, but it was not enough due to the lack of success around him on defense. Simmons, last week, had two tackles, one of which was for a loss on third down, was the lead blocker on a crucial 4th down play on offense that Derrick Henry converted, and caught a touchdown pass in the 4th quarter. More success and domination is desperately needed for this Titans defense who are struggling to create havoc for the opposing offensive line and quarterback.