The Tennessee Titans continued their 2021 season today with a 33-30 win against the Seattle Seahawks.
It was a wild game full of twists and turns, including an overtime period that could’ve ended early due to a safety. A fair of winners and losers in this one, so let’s just get right into it.
Winner: Julio Jones
Jones had a forgettable Titans debut last week against the Arizona Cardinals.
He had a number of important drops, including a key one that led to a Tannehill interception, as well as a really bad unnecessary roughness penalty that killed the momentum of potential game changing drive.
This week though? He was on fire.
Jones was all over the field, finishing with six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown that was later negated via replay. He was by far the Titans’ most consistent receiver, picking up the slack while A.J. Brown was fighting through some issues dropping the football.
He was huge today and would’ve ended up with an even larger stat line if Derrick Henry didn’t catch fire in the second half.
This is the player the Titans imagined they were receiving when they traded for him in the offseason. If he can just stay consistent and stay healthy, he’s going to make this offense so much better, maybe even better than last year’s unit.
Loser: Bradley McDougald
McDougald was thrust into game action due to Amani Hooker going on injured reserve. His first game action of the season as a Titan? Smack dab in the middle of trying to limit the Seahawks’ big play ability in the passing game.
He got a shot maybe change the perception around him as a useless depth safety……but he didn’t capitalize.
He got burned on Tyler Lockett’s first deep reception of the game, falling behind in coverage and allowing Lockett to come down with a pretty impressive grab. McDougald isn’t a starting safety in this league, he’s a reserve body that’ll fill in when needed.
The Titans needed him today and he just wasn’t impressive.
Bad day for the new starter in the secondary.
Winner: Kristian Fulton
How about Kristian Fulton huh?
After a rookie year full of injuries, playing out of position, and running into a bit of a misfortune like the majority of rookies do during their inaugural season, Fulton has stepped up in his second year.
Instead of playing as a slot corner, he’s been able to play outside against more typical boundary wide receivers. He’s been able to be more physical with the bigger bodies he’s seen and hasn’t been caught slipping because his own speed is a better matchup for the receiver talent you typically see as a boundary corner.
Last week, Fulton shut down A.J. Green. Although that didn’t amount to much, it was still an indicator that he was settling in nicely after his rough rookie year. This time around, Fulton had a chance to further solidify his status as a young, talented emerging corner if he could win his matchup against star wideout D.K. Metcalf
Not only did Fulton step up to the challenge, he stepped up to it and stared at it in its eyes with the least amount of fear you could have.
Fulton limited Metcalf to six catches for 53 yards, although I don’t think Fulton was manned up against Metcalf on some of those catches so the official numbers might be lower. Aside from the statistical dominance, Fulton also baited Metcalf into making a couple of boneheaded penalties as well.
It was another performance that opened some eyes regarding Fulton’s status as a top cover corner on this team. The Titans can only hope he stays consistent and becomes a key member of this secondary for the rest of the season and the foreseeable future.
Loser: Shane Bowen Putting Elijah Molden in Bad Positions
Molden is going to be a very good player for this Titans defense for years to come.
He’s a scrappy defensive back that brings a lot of value as a blitzer and as a physical cover corner in the slot, along with some positional versatility as well.
But Shane Bowen has to stop falling asleep at the wheel and leaving Molden in one on one coverage with speed threats in the slot. It’s not a knock against Molden, it’s just that his straight line speed isn’t great, so it leaves him vulnerable to deep throws down the field.
Last week it was Christian Kirk who left Molden in the dust on a busted cover zero call. This week, it was a simple deep crossing route from Tyler Lockett that Molden covered well initially, but the rep ended up being Molden’s loss due to his speed not being able to keep up with Lockett’s own straight line speed.
Shane Bowen has to do a better job at lining Molden up in spots where he can succeed, not in spots the rookie can get burned.
Adjustments is the name of the game, Bowen has to get on the wave.
Winner: The Defense….?
The scoreboard might not say it, but this defense played well for the most part against Seattle’s physical, high flying offense.
They got a fair amount of pressure on Russell Wilson, including a third down sack in overtime that led to the Titans’ game winning drive. The run game was also kept in check, which was a rather underrated point of emphasis considering how good the run game for Seattle looked in week one against the Indianapolis Colts.
The one flaw that I’m sure everyone had fears about during the week leading up to the game was how the secondary was going to limit the deep threat both Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf present. The Titans didn’t handle it well for the most part, with Lockett going for over 175 yards receiving.
Other than that though, I think this defense played well.
The next step is stringing together stops and eliminating the bad drives like the ones we saw today. One they get that down, I think this defense will take the next step in changing the reputation surrounding them as a pushover of a unit that can’t do the most basic of jobs.
Winner: The Run Game
Last week, because the Titans fell behind by so much so early, they never got a chance to establish the run game.
Derrick Henry didn’t reach 60 yards rushing, and with him being such a non-factor, it was hard for this offense to get to a consistent rhythm. Coming into today’s game, the Titans needed to establish the run and take pressure off the passing game.
Not only did they do just that, they did it and took it to another level.
It wasn’t a pretty start, but as the game went along, this run game showed why it’s so feared across the league. Henry ran wild, finishing with 182 yards on 35 carries along with three big touchdown runs, including a long touchdown run that reminded us why Henry is so good as what he does.
We knew Henry wouldn’t stay down for long, he’s too talented for that. The question was when he’d break out and snap out of the early season funk that plagued him for the first six or so quarters of the season.
He did so today and in doing so helped this Titans team win a huge game to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole.
He was physical, ran with a purpose, and seemingly flushed away the bad performance from last week
Uh oh: Injuries
Before this game even occurred, the Titans were already dealing with some nagging injuries on both sides of the ball. During pregame warm ups, that nagging injury situation got a little bit worse.
Taylor Lewan suffered a knee injury in warm ups prior to today’s game, which then led to Lewan being named an inactive. Fast forward to the actual game, his fellow offensive line mate Rodger Saffold went down twice with a shoulder injury before exiting the game for good in the second half. To round it all off, starting center Ben Jones had some trouble with an injury in the second half as well, but he ended up returning and gutting the rest of the game out.
With an extra 17th game in the fold, injuries were always going to be an additional topic of interest. We’re only in week two and they’re already giving Mike Vrabel and the rest of his staff some fits.
The marathon to the end of the season will be full of ups and downs per usual, but injuries have and will always play a big part in the painful marathon as well.
As Mike Vrabel has said before, it’s always next man up when injuries occur. You just hope you don’t have to rely on the next man up too often.