The Tennessee Titans kicked off week 16 tonight, with a come from behind win against the San Francisco 49ers.
Winners and losers are as followed, so let’s get into it.
Meh: Todd Downing
Downing came into tonight’s game down his starting left tackle, his starting left guard, and his second string left tackle.
With the 49ers boasting an impressive ability to rush the passer, that didn’t spell a lot of confidence for the Titans’ ability to throw the ball down the field.
But as the game began, it wasn’t the 49ers’ pass rushing ability that stood as the Titans’ obstacle for offensive success. It was Downing’s play calling and lack of awareness that killed any sort of momentum this offense could’ve acquired.
Run plays behind the side that’s down to the deepest of reserve linemen, poor play calling on second down, the inability to creatively give touches to either A.J. Brown or Julio Jones, I mean I could go on and on.
His play calling in the second half was better on the surface, you know when he actually remembered he has a young star receiver on the roster. Even still though, it was just an up and down night for Downing.
The first time Titans offensive coordinator has to pick himself up and soon. This team has two more important games remaining, both of which will decide the future of the AFC South and maybe the coveted first seed in the AFC playoff field.
To secure at least one of those things, this team will need Downing to be on his a-game. Because if he isn’t, the Titans are going to be in some stressful situations moving forward.
Winner: A.J. Brown
Brown was greatly missed by this Titans offense.
His tough play style, swagger, and mere presence brings so much positivity to this unit. Without it, you’re left to pick up the pieces and rely on depth to help cover for his absence.
But when this unit does have the services of Brown, like they did tonight, then it truly receives a boost of overall talent and most importantly, reliability.
Brown was lit up the 49ers’ secondary, finishing with 11 catches for 145 yards and a very important touchdown grab in the second half.
He did most of his damage in the second half, single-handedly carrying the Titans’ rough offense down the field. Converting key third downs, coming down with contested grabs down the field, taking opposing corners to work, I mean Brown did it all.
What was confusing was how much single coverage he received, even after he heated up in the second half. There were no doubles, no bracketed coverage, nothing. But Brown would rather have it that way, since it gives him a multitude of opportunities to do his job without having to worry about coverage over the top of two bodies being assigned to slow him down.
If Brown can continue to stay healthy, then this offense will find its footing one way or another. Well, that’s if Todd Downing finds some consistency and awareness as a play caller.
Gift exchange: Jimmy Garoppolo & the Titans’ defense
Lets get this straight.
The Titans shouldn’t have been in this game whatsoever. They were inept offensively for the most part, and they looked outmatched on the defensive side of the ball as well.
But just as things started to look bleak early on, Garoppolo came in and saved the day…..for the Titans.
The 49ers’ starting quarterback was in the giving spirit tonight, throwing two very bad interceptions that gave this Titans team a bit of life when they were close to death. He should’ve thrown a third interception as well, but Rashaan Evans let it slip through his hands.
This isn’t to say the Titans’ defense only got stops because Garoppolo bailed them out. But his turnover prone play really helped keep Mike Vrabel’s team in a game they shouldn’t have been in.
Props to the Titans for taking advantage of those turnovers though.
Winner: Jeremy McNichols
McNichols didn’t finish with insane numbers (seven carries for 31 yards). But the situational impact of those carries was big, especially the ones that came in the latter portion of the second half.
He did this on a night in which the Titans’ run game struggled to get going, which was somewhat expected due to the offense’s situation on the offensive line, and the 49ers’ impressive run defense.
He didn’t get to contribute much in the passing game, but he found a way to contribute in another way, and it turned out to be very important in the grand scheme of things.
Loser: First down offense
This was one of the big stories early on, and it remained one until the final whistle.
The Titans’ first down offense was horrendous early on. They couldn’t stay away from negative plays, the play calls themselves were poor in quality, and the self made mistakes destroyed the start of whatever drive the Titans’ offense had.
It was worse than a pedestrian showing, in fact it was a pitiful showing on first down offensively.
It got a little bit better as the game went on, but the lack of success on first down early on burned away any initial hope of the Titans somehow finding a way to win this football game.
First down offense is important, especially for an offense that leans so much on its running game.
I’m sure the first down situation won’t as bad moving forward, but if it continues the trend we witnessed tonight, this offense is going to worry about way more than simple injury management.
Nice job: Dillon Radunz
Radunz was thrown into the fire tonight after Kendall Lamm tested positive for COVID-19.
To be thrusted into the lineup on a short week, and against a very mean 49ers defensive line, nobody would’ve blamed Radunz if he went out and struggled.
But instead of doing that, Radunz played a very good game, looking more comfortable at the left tackle spot as the game went along. It was honestly a good sign from Radunz too, seeing that he was a high draft pick, and how rough his start was with the organization on the field.
He’ll likely return back to a reserve role by the time the Titans get back on the field next weekend, but it was a good stepping stone sort of performance for Radunz after being hit with some unexpected adversity.