The Tennessee Titans kicked off their 2021 season with an embarrassing loss to the Arizona Cardinals today.
There weren’t a lot of winners from the Titans’ side of things, as you can probably tell just by looking at the final score. But there were some bright spots that at least shunned away some of the poor play that we saw this afternoon.
It’s only week one and we’re never supposed to judge how good or bad a team is in week one. However, some of the issues that arose today might be a cause for future concern.
Let’s jump right into this.
Winner: Ryan Tannehill
Let’s set the record straight, the Titans’ problems on offense today weren’t caused by Tannehill. He was under duress the entire game, struggling to even stay upright.
But despite that, Tannehill finished with some good numbers that indicated how good he was despite things going bad around him. He finished with 212 yards and a touchdown, looking poised and calm in the pocket whenever he had the chance to do so.
The only blemishes on his record today was an interception that was caused by a Julio Jones drop, and maybe a couple of others throws that got away from him. Other than that, it was a decent performance from the team’s QB1.
He’ll have a chance to continue his good play next week on the road against a Seattle Seahawks team that has had some defensive problems in the past.;
Loser: Todd Downing
The transition from Arthur Smith to Todd Downing at offensive coordinator wasn’t going to be an easy one. Smith was a fantastic play caller in Tennessee, often putting his best players in the best positions to succeed, and changing gears whenever he had to as a play caller.
Downing didn’t do that today, in fact he did the opposite for the most part.
He failed to adjust early on when the Cardinals stacked the box on early downs, opting to stubbornly abuse the run instead of embracing the passing game to open things up offensively. That wasn’t the only mistake Downing made today either.
When it was clear Chandler Jones was going to be a problem today, he didn’t adjust quickly enough. Instead of leaving some help on Lewan’s side to at least slow down Jones’ start up as a pass rusher, he continued to leave Lewan one on one on an island. It’s okay to trust your franchise left tackle, but when things obviously aren’t going the way you want them to, you have to send a bit of help over to not only protect Lewan, but protect Tannehill from getting beaten and battered as well.
I’m going to say this a lot, but it’s only week one. Downing will improve, he’ll adjust, and he’ll find his groove as a play caller during the year.
However, some of the uninspiring tendencies that plagued him as an offensive coordinator in 2017 showed up today, and the Titans can’t afford to have those become constant nags on their back if they want to be where they want to be as a team in 2021.
Winner: A.J. Brown
Along with Tannehill, A.J. Brown was one of a few bright spots for the Titans’ offense today.
Brown finished with four catches for forty nine yards, while at times looking like the only threat on offense from a skill position perspective.
He even had a fantastic touchdown catch that breathed some life into Nissan Stadium, before Kyler Murray and the rest of the Cardinals’ offense quickly shut things down with a scoring drive of their own.
We’ll see how he plays next week with a matchup against his best friend D.K. Metcalf on the dockett.
Loser: Titans Marketing
The Titans and their players have talked about wanting a legit home field advantage for years now.
Time and time again, Nissan Stadium has been taken over by opposing fans, whether that’s because of Titans fans reselling tickets or opposing fans snatching tickets up quickly. Whatever the case may be, players have complained about the lack of Titans fans in the stands over the years, and how important it’d be to have the stadium full of cheering home fans.
Well, after years of complaining and backhanded comments, the Titans got the full stadium they’ve been begging for. But instead of giving fans something to cheer about, the team got whooped and in the process gave non die hard fans another reason to stray away from spending thousands of dollars on tickets in the future.
An Even Bigger Loser: Offensive Line
This was a bit of a shocker.
Coming into the game, the Titans’ offensive line appeared to have only one legit question mark at right tackle. After today’s game, the entire line stands as one big question mark.
They couldn’t protect Tannehill at all today, allowing six sacks and constant pressure all game long. The pass protection wasn’t the only failure from the line either, the Cardinals’ front seven completely dominated them in the run game as well.
You want to know how bad it was? Derrick Henry couldn’t even get a second to breath before he found himself having to brace for a hit at the line of scrimmage. Like I previously said, it’s only week one, and problems for good football teams are generally solved as the season goes on.
But if this offensive line plays like it did today for the entirety of the season, which I think they won’t, then this Titans team can forget about competing with the top tier teams in the AFC.
Pits of the underworld loser: Taylor Lewan
This was a disappointing performance from Lewan.
In his first game back since an ACL tear ended his season in 2020, Lewan was tasked with slowing down electric pass rusher Chandler Jones. It was a difficult task in retrospect since few have been able to limit the damage Jones can have on a football game. But I believe the team trusted Lewan enough to hold his own and play like the player they believe he is.
Boy was that a mistake.
Lewan gave up four sacks, all to Jones. He looked outmatched, out of sync, and maybe even a little unprepared. It got so bad during the game that you wondered if he was going to be able to do the simple things his job entails, and do the little things just to keep Ryan Tannehill off his back.
Maybe that’s a little too negative, but he was truly that bad today.
Now some rust might’ve been a factor today, since he didn’t get a lot of work in the preseason. But even rust doesn’t make you play as bad as Lewan played today.
Lewan won’t consistently be as bad as he was today, that I can guarantee you. However, if he can’t elevate his play and give the Titans some to work with in terms of trust, then the schematic view of this offense might change far more than the Titans were planning.
Not as big of a loser: Ryan Tannehill and Julio Jones’ Chemistry
One of the big time storylines coming into today’s game was the lack of practice and game time Julio Jones had. He didn’t practice much during camp due to an injury and he didn’t play a single snap in the preseason. Legit concerns about his chemistry with Ryan Tannehill were carried into today’s game because of that and the concerns showed their horns today.
Throughout the game, Jones struggled to really click with Tannehill.
Jones had a few drops, a couple due to him being surprised when Tannehill threw the football. But the timing on those throws, they all seemed a little off.
I guess it goes to show you that chemistry is indeed important and it’s indeed necessary.
Jones and Tannehill will get their act together as the season goes on, it’s just their lack of chemistry today was blatantly obvious and one of the reasons the Titans’ offense couldn’t find its footing for the most part.
I thought things were different: The Titans’ defense
We heard all offseason long about the Titans’ defense and how the additions to the defense would change the perspective of this unit.
For the lat time, it’s only week one, but my goodness this defense looks the same as last seasons. The only difference that was apparent today was the gigantic infusion of cash that seemingly went to waste.
Kyler Murray torched this defense like a roast turkey on Thanksgiving. Four touchdowns, over 270 yards through the air, and a number of wacky plays that made you laugh at how comical Murray can look while making defenses look helpless, everything seemingly went wrong today for the Titans’ defense.
Deandre Hopkins joined the party as well, continuing his assault on the Titans even though he’s in an entirely new conference. Janoris Jenkins looked lost covering him all game long, same could be said for the other corners that got their chance to find a way to slow down one of the game’s top wideouts.
The pass rush was abysmal as well, specifically the interior portion, which was surprising to say the least. Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry didn’t look all that good, failing to sniff Murray in the backfield more times than not. Even the interior running game for the Cardinals was efficient today, a facet many teams failed to establish even against last season’s poor excuse of a defense.
It was just a poor performance all around, one that makes you ponder the outlook of this unit.
They’re not going to get a week off next weekend, as they’ll travel to take on a Seahawks offense that put up 28 points while looking flawless against a respectable Indianapolis Colts defense. So it’s either pick up the slack or get shredded once again, with the latter being a scenario the Titans can’t afford to suffer through again so early in the season.