Well that went about as well as it could have for the Titans. A business trip to Indianapolis resulted in a win over a rival and sole possession of first place in the AFC South. 8-3 looks good on this team, at the same time keeping the Titans out of the playoff hot seat (for now). But as Vincente (@MaitreV615) points out, this season is far from over.
To be fair, Vincente does not believe this team finishes 9-7, and I don’t either. The point is that it’s the NFL, and “any given Sunday” can be a real pain sometimes.
The Titans have been playing better lately in all phases of the game. Even with a host of injuries at multiple positions, the boys in blue have found a way to put together a couple of complete games in a row. The defense is stepping up and getting stops while the offense is executing and putting the pressure on opposing defenses.
It did not look like a complete game early as the battle for first in the South opened like a potential shootout. However, the defense was able to stop the Colts on multiple possessions following back-to-back scores for the Colts. The Titans offense picked up the pace after the first punt of the first half, never looking back once they took the lead.
A few positional notes before we get into the notes/review. Nate Davis is continuing to improve on his rookie season, turning into a fantastic guard. There is no way around it. Davis is playing at a Pro Bowl level and deserves recognition. He and Rodger Saffold might be one of the best (if not the best) guard duos in the NFL. They are both very fun to watch in film review.
This isn’t meant to take anything away from any other linemen (or tight ends/wide receivers), as everyone is stepping up and contributing. Dennis Kelly has been solid holding down the right tackle spot. Ben Jones is a strong center who constantly maintains one-on-one blocks at the point of attack.
The other line callout I want to make is David Quessenberry. What a journey it has been for the 8 year NFL vet.
The feel-good story preceded a solid performance for Quessenberry, who made impacts on multiple run plays, not to mention having an exceptional game in pass protection and helping to keep Ryan Tannehill clean.
The Titans offense was balanced not only in the play calling but in the use of formations to gain an advantage. The run game really attacked the edges and called on wide receivers to block in the box. This led to routes being run out of tight formations that simulated the same run-blocking sets. This allowed Titans receivers to have the advantage attacking the sideline to the deep third of the field.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the plays that contributed to the Titans’ success. But first, a look at some of my other notes outside of the review section (these may or may not be in tweet form as well – find me @RyanOnBroadway).
- First play of the game, the Titans attack the undermanned Colts front. The play almost pops for an explosive gain, but Kelly can’t quite cut off the back side end, and Derrick Henry is tackled for a six-yard gain. It was a sign of things to come, seeing Quessenberry and Saffold flawlessly work a climb/double to frontside backer. Nate Davis is able to help Kelly by reaching his scoop block and getting a hand on the end that Kelly could not quite get. Swaim also needs to be recognized here – although he was not quite able to get a reach block, he maintained leverage and kept the frontside edge out of the play. Very nice cut back and vision from Henry to see the hole open up between Saffold and Jones
- I continue to love watching the Titans utilize balance in the offense. A big part of this is using the WRs in close for help on the edge in the run game. Art Smith comes back to this look by lining up Corey Davis in tight near Jonnu Smith. Later, Art utilizes that same split and space to now run a slant and/or the corner/out that Davis has become so good at running. Just like last week, Corey sticks his foot in the ground around his fifth step and then breaks out. The coverage spins around and is late to react. 21-yard gain to help set up another score for this offense. Really great design and using your alignments to gain an advantage in all aspects of the offense.
- Great wrinkle near the goal line trying to get Aaron Brewer a touchdown one week after his first start. Lining up as an extra tight end/offensive lineman, Brewer reports as eligible and blocks down, then carries his route through the middle of the Colts defense (similar to a crossing route). Unfortunately, the Colts spoil the party and cover Brewer right away. Maybe next time, big guy!
- Near the end of the first half, the Titans go for it on 4th and 4 near midfield. Lining up in shotgun, they run a clearout with Davis and an out route with Firkser. Smith runs an in route and is possibly open for the first down as well. Brown runs a dig route at 10 yards over the top of Smith. However, Davis clears out so well, he clears the entire defense and is wide open for a walk in touchdown. My only complaint about this play (I love the balls to go for it and the play design itself) is that Tannehill underthrows Davis on this route. This should have been a 38-yard touchdown to Davis. Firkser is the first read on the play but is covered, so Tannehill comes off of that read and sees Davis breaking open. Tannehill shifts forward in the pocket and does not appear to have his feet completely set as he unleashes his throw down field. This causes the ball to be underthrown by about 5 yards. Davis makes a fantastic effort to come back to the ball and get his hands under it to complete the catch, gets up and goes down at the one. Great effort by Davis. Tannehill runs it in for the touchdown on the next play thanks to some crafty misdirection. Tannehill pulls the ball and has probably the easiest one-yard touchdown run you will see.
- Most of the second half contained runs with the purpose of running out or shortening the game. The pass routes that were called were all safe throws for Tannehill. Mostly boots or trying to hit crossers/comebacks on the edge. Tannehill was also making smart plays when booting, such as his decision on a 2nd and 9 to slide down in bounds to keep the clock moving. He did hit Brown on a nice 10-yard out route for a first down midway through the fourth quarter that bought the Titans an extra set of downs and worked another three minutes off of the clock before an eventual Brett Kern coffin corner kick (so good to have him back).
White Board Reviews:
- Corey Davis sneak route, 12 yards
- Line Davis up tight with Brown
- Motion Brown inside of Davis,
- Davis hesitates as if he is chipping
- Brown continues on his clear out route to take the top off
- Offenses are trying to clear out for a shorter route when they do this
- After Davis hesitates at the line, he releases into a flat route and is open right away
- The coverage has sunk with Brown and has left space for Davis to operate
- Cam Batson is on a backside dig to also attack the space Brown cleared out
- Line is working play action slide protection
- Jonnu Smith is helping and does a nice job to find the immediate edge rusher
- Henry carrying out his fake is responsible for the next edge outside of Smith