Jon Robinson has a blueprint on how he wants his team to function.
The now veteran Tennessee Titans general manager wants his team to run the football well, not only to sustain success and maintain a physical presence across all 11 positions, but to open up other avenues of smooth offensive cruising so the unit won’t carry a one dimensional identity.
Another piece of the puzzle Robinson wants to see fit is a defense’s ability to suffocate opposing offenses in both facets of the game, whether it comes down to stopping the run or limiting damage through the air. If you’re able to do those things, aside from any potential catastrophic events, you’re going to find yourself in the position to win a lot of football games.
The final piece, and probably the most important part Robinson wants to see working correctly is the ability to play clean, efficient football. Staying on schedule during down and distance situations, finding a healthy balance within multiple areas of the game offensively and defensively, avoiding the dreadful turnovers that can put you in awful spots to win games, the basics of this simple concept are easy to understand and digest.
For the Titans, they’ve accomplished the mission of sustaining two of these key details on the blueprint for success.
They’ve ran the football well for the most part this season, and their defense has played some really good games over the last few months.
The one thing they’ve lacked though, is the skill to achieve the most important aspect of the three important keys to success. Limiting turnovers and playing enough efficient football to avoid difficult situations on both sides of the ball.
Take today’s game for example, a game in which the Titans turned the football over a staggering four times.
The Titans had ample opportunities to take control of this game. With a 13-3 lead and a run game that was physically bullying the Pittsburgh Steelers’ stellar defensive front, the outlook for the rest of the game seemed positive for Mike Vrabel’s team.
But once the turnovers started to pile up, the situation quickly turned from joyful to frustrating and disappointing.
One fumble was lost, then another was lost, and then another, and then an interception joined the party. Once the dust settled, the Titans found themselves staring at four turnovers and a scenario in which they had to quickly right the ship before it was too late.
The deed couldn’t be executed though, as the four mishaps killed the team’s chances to secure another win. Despite a number of negative circumstances swirling around the team like a vulture does to its deceased prey. This isn’t the only instance where turnovers have cracked the very foundation of this team either.
Since Derrick Henry suffered that foot fracture that still has him on the mend, the Titans have turned the ball over 14 (!!) times. That includes games in which they’ve turned the ball over at least four times, all of which have came within the month.
For any team, turnovers are detrimental and stand as devastating blows in terms of team success. For the Titans, these turnovers stand as more than devastating blows, they stand as brutal head and body shots that have been proven to knock this team out for the count on multiple occasions.
The offense is already drowning, gasping for air and searching for a foundation to lean on due to the injuries that have destroyed the overall cohesiveness of the unit. If you add those turnovers in, forget finding a foundation to lean on, you can almost certainly say goodbye to any chance you have of staying afloat and living to fight another day.
With an all important three game stretch on the horizon to close out the regular season — and potentially a second straight division title — the foundation that’s brought this organization out of the depths of purgatory is beginning to crack. You can run the football well and play as much swarming defense as you want, but if the most important tool to the foundation isn’t set, then the entire plan will go up in smoke.
The Titans have three weeks — two and a half to be exact — to find a way to fix the root of their foundational problem. They can either fall flat on their face or face it head on and fix it for the time being.
For their sake, you can only hope they choose to do the latter.
Because if they don’t, forget the discussion regarding the issue of being a one and done in the postseason, they could make their entire journey towards the postseason itself more difficult than it should be.