Last night was a magical one indeed for the Tennessee Titans.
They went on the road, played their best defensive game to date, and made just enough plays offensively to help widen the gap on the scoreboard en route to another unexpected victory against a previously thought superior opponent.
It was probably one of the more impressive, miraculous wins of the Mike Vrabel era, a feat that isn’t easy to accomplish due to the handful of eye opening wins Vrabel has accumulated through the 4 years he’s been at the helm in Tennessee.
Despite the win though, there were a few flaws that exposed themselves as the game progressed. Specifically the offense and their inability to sustain drives consistently throughout the night.
This specific issue has been one that’s plagued the Titans’ offense all year long. However, because Derrick Henry is so good at what he does — efficiency in the run game and influence on multiple extensions of what the Titans want to do offensively — the issue wasn’t put under a magnifying glass for the rest of the world to see.
But now with Henry out, the issue is going to be closely monitored more than ever before.
Look, we all knew the offense was going to have a tough time trying to make up for the loss of Derrick Henry. When you lose a player of his caliber suddenly in the middle of the season, a player that’s carried so much of the load for you offensively this year, a player that you depend so much on for offensive success, there’s going to be a bit of an adjustment period.
I understand, I really do.
But what we saw last night was an offense clearly struggled to consistently do things well aside from the play action passing game. The run game was nonexistent, the drop back passing game continued to flow in and out of the game because the offensive line couldn’t handle the Rams’ defensive front, there were just too many negative moving parts.
The output run game specifically was the most concerning negative aspect from the offense last night.
If you take away Ryan Tannehill’s rushing attempts and Marcus Johnson’s seven yard loss on his lone attempt, the Titans’ committee of running backs averaged only 3.36 yards per carry. That’s a number that’ll make you squint your eyes and put a disgusting look on your face right?
Perhaps the only bright spot in the run game was D’Onta Foreman, who rushed for 29 yards on just five carries while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Now to be fair to Peterson and even McNichols, there wasn’t a lot of room to run throughout the entirety of the season so far, let alone just last night.
But if the Titans want teams to continue to respect their offensive attack, there has to be more success in the run game. Like I mentioned earlier, the run game gives the Titans’ offense a number of additional schematic advantages when its successful and forcing defenses to stack the box.
For example, the play action passing game, again which was still a key positive for the offense last night.
The traditional drop back passing game remained a bit of a weakness for the Titans last night, as they struggled to find any sort of explosiveness in that facet. But that’s been much of the case even with Derrick Henry, so it wasn’t too surprising to see the unit struggle a bit there as well.
Per NextGenStats, Ryan Tannehill only attempted two passes that traveled at least 15 yards in the air, which feels like the least amount he’s attempted ever during his time as. Titan. It only goes to show how lifeless the passing game was at times and how little of an explosive threat it was.
In all honesty, I don’t think the offense will continue to remain as volatile as it was last night. There’s still too much talent that resides on the unit, Todd Downing has shown immense strides in terms of adaptation and a willingness to change for the betterment of the offense, when healthy A.J. Brown and Julio Jones can still cause a number of fits for opposing secondaries, and Ryan Tannehill is still a threat as a downfield passer when the opportunity presents itself.
It’s simply all about taking consistency and execution, and combining those two things together to create an offense worth respecting.
It’ll be difficult to do without the services of Derrick Henry, especially if Tannehill continues his uncharacteristic turnover problem and the run game continues to trip over its own feet without Henry there to clean up the mess.
But the Titans have the talent and scheme to do it, so until they show obvious consistent signs of failure, it’s best to classify this offense as a bit of a work in progress as they deal with unique, unfortunate circumstances rather as one that should be all in on blasting the panic button.