The Titans finally got off the schneid and put a 1 in the win column Sunday, handily (and then just barely) beating the Las Vegas Raiders. The battle of 0-2 former playoff teams wasn’t a close one, until it was.
Just like in this article from Week 1, the first half provided almost nothing but winners. Our Week 3 losers joined the party in the second half. The big difference, of course, is that the Titans found a way to win this time.
While there is quite a bit of positive to gather from this game for Tennessee, there’s also a couple massive negatives that cannot go overlooked. Lets dive in:
Winner: Todd Downing
Todd Kelly… I mean Downing… had a fantastic start to his day!
All joking aside, Downing took an absolute beating from fans and in the press to begin the season. In the first half of this game, he came out with a brilliant response.
The Titans put points on the board on four of their five offensive drives before halftime, finding the endzone on their first 3 drives and a FG right before time expired.
Downing did a nice job playing to Tennessee’s strengths and making chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what with the pieces he had at his disposal. His offensive line was a serious question coming into the game, so he made their job as simple as possible. Tannehill was asked to get the ball out very quickly when he dropped back, which he did well.
The ball was distributed well, utilizing a wide array of Titans’ playmakers. General playcalling was definitely improved; the number of times you felt the urge to yell “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING” at the sideline over a playcalling decision was greatly minimized.
Loser: Todd Downing
Sorry, but Downing can’t rest on his first half laurels after this performance.
In very similar fashion to how their home opener went just two weeks ago, Tennessee fell completely flat after halftime. They managed a fantastic 24 point start, and proceeded to not score a single point in the 3rd or 4th quarter.
Put simply, the playcalling grew far too conservative. Running on 2nd and long, not trying to push the ball down the field in the passing game… it was incredibly stagnant.
It wasn’t all on Downing: there was some poor execution and some sloppy discipline that put the home team behind the chains too many times. But Downing has to be able to adjust and coax production out of his side of the ball in the most crucial half of the game.
So far, he’s batting .000 in that department.
Winner: Robert Woods and Derrick Henry
The reported demise of King Henry was greatly exaggerated.
Right on schedule, the Titans’ star running back showed up in a big way. Doing his best Christian McCaffrey impression, Henry had a big day both rushing and receiving. He totaled 85 yards on 20 carries, good for 4.3 YPC. In the passing game, he caught 5 passes for 58 yards, good for an 11.6 AVG.
All told, Henry had 143 all-purpose yards on the day, his best since before his foot injury in 2021.
We know this is how Henry operates. He begins slow each and every year, and grows stronger as the season goes. On Sunday, he clearly ran the ball with the most tenacity and best vision we’ve seen from him this year. He looked truly hard to tackle, and rarely went down on first contact.
We all know this, and yet with each passing year the premature panic begins far too early. Relax; he’s back.
Speaking of being back, Robert Woods finally looked like the star receiver the Titans traded for. It’s not surprising that it took Woods a couple weeks to get up to speed, considering he is both new to the team this year and is coming off of a late-season ACL tear in 2021.
Woods was the leading receiver on the team in terms of yards, totaling 85 on 4 receptions. While Burks is being brought along slowly by the coaching staff, Woods needs to continue to be the WR1 for this team like he was in Week 3.
Loser: Caleb Farley and Terrance Mitchell
This one is ugly for all three parties involved.
The Titans decided to start newly-aquired CB Terrance Mitchell over 2nd-year CB Caleb Farley against the Raiders. Mitchell joined the team from the Patriots practice squad on Wednesday of this past week, and still got the nod over the former 1st round pick.
When the dust settled, Mitchell had 48 snaps and Farley had just 1.
For Farley, it’s a scathing indictment of what the coaching staff thinks of him at this point. His very high potential hasn’t even come close to being realized, and whether it ever will is a real question. The fact that he can’t get on the field over a practice squad corner who hasn’t even been with the team for a week is embarrassing.
For Mitchell, his Titans debut was an unmitigated disaster. He is primarily responsible for Raiders WR Mack Hollins monster day, in which he put up 8 receptions for 158 yards and a TD. If you’re asking yourself who Mack Hollins even is, you aren’t alone. Mitchell was plainly horrible, and was the corner responsible for the TD that gave the Raiders a chance to tie the game in the final minutes. He should not be playing meaningful snaps for this team, especially in front of their former 1st round draft pick.
For the coaching staff… what were they thinking? It’s incredibly hard to imagine Farley would have been any worse than Mitchell was, and Farley has infinitely more upside. How poorly must they think of Farley to have made this decision? And even so, what were they thinking when they made it?
Winner: Red Zone Defense
The bad news: Tennessee let the Raiders move up and down the field mostly at will.
The good news: they were fantastic in the red zone.
The Titans defense seriously tightened up once Vegas got into scoring position, allowing just 2 touchdowns on 6 trips. They forced 3 field goals and got an interception with their backs against the wall, and it was really what kept them in control of the game.
We’ve seen this style of play from them before: Bend-Don’t-Break defense is a Tennessee favorite. For fans, it’s unnerving. But when executed properly, it’s incredibly effective.
Loser: Defensive Depth
Big depth issues on the defensive side of the ball already plagued the Titans coming into this game. While they seemed to avoid any major injuries this week, some key plays got banged up.
ILB Zach Cunningham left the game in the first half with an elbow injury and was deemed questionable to return, which he didn’t.
DL Denico Autry came off the field at one point holding his hand and wrist area, though he returned later in the game.
Star CB Kristian Fulton, who has been on the injury report all year and was missed in the worst way last week, had a really fantastic return in Week 3. However, he went down at the end of the game and was tended to by the training staff. His health looks to remain a question for the foreseeable future.
The Titans already have scary depth situations at CB and LB, so much so that they really cannot afford to lose any more quality contributors.
Their Week 6 BYE looked like a bad break before the season began. Now, its starting to look like it will be seriously needed.
Easton Freeze is the Director of Published Content at Broadway Sports Media, covering the Titans and the NFLRead more of his articles here, and listen to him on The Hot Read PodcastGet more Titans coverage from Easton on Twitter @eastonfreeze