QB Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans were 8-4 at the beginning of the month looking like they would make a push for the division title or at the very least make the playoffs on the wild card.
At the time, this game looked like it would be a tough matchup or a trap game at the very least.
Now, it’s difficult to look at this Titans team and not notch this as a win.
At 8-6, they look like a team that’s desperate to make a change but speechless as how to do it. They used to be able to get wins against bad teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns (in overtime, no less). Now, they can’t even do that. The Titans have dropped two-in-a-row to the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers and are reeling on the precipice of missing out on the playoffs entirely.
There are plenty of factors that contribute, but it starts with Mariota.
The 2017 Regression
Mariota went off in his second year with the Titans, throwing 26 touchdowns, just nine interceptions, and nearly 3,000 yards passing. This year, he is a much different quarterback. He looks uncomfortable in the pocket and thus he’s thrown 14 interceptions and just 12 touchdowns through 14 games.
In the last five games, Mariota’s tossed five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Mariota has a tendency to put the ball where his receivers should be and often throws before they even know the ball is coming to them. The chemistry is sound. But even good chemistry can lead to mistakes.
Mariota takes the snap and immediately throws the ball towards the Z-receiver right as he makes the first step for the cut. The corner, who is reading Mariota, immediately jumps the route and knocks it out.
The mistakes can also be lethal, like the above interception. Following the game, WR Rishard Matthews said he went outside (the hash) on the route, but Mariota thought he was going inside. Simple mistake.
Some interceptions are just bad. Mariota was looking for TE Delanie Walker over the middle and the quarterback throws low and behind. Mariota has a tendency to throw behind his receivers. There were two instances in the game against the 49ers where he’s thrown behind Walker that either would have scored a touchdown or put them on the doorstep.
No-huddle, no problem
Following the loss to the 49ers, Matthews expressed his desire to have the Titans run the no-huddle more often because it was so effective during the game. Down 16-3, the Titans flexed the no-huddle and scored a touchdown before the half and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
But during the no-huddle, Mariota never looked more comfortable.
There were two drives when the Titans went no-huddle and both ended with touchdowns. Mariota also threw just one incomplete pass combined.
The first two drives of the game, Mariota was sacked and went 2-for-5 for 26 yards on the second drive. Mariota looks more comfortable, for the most part, in no-huddle. Could be wrong...— Tim Godfrey (@MrTimGodfrey) December 21, 2017
Spoiler-alert: Titans won’t (successfully) run the ball much
In the first three games of the season, the Titans ran the ball for more than 100 yards twice.
Since then, the Titans have run for more than 100 yards three times in 11 games. Four out of the last five games saw their running game record less than 100 yards. RB DeMarco Murray, who is the lead-back, is averaging 3.6 yards-per-carry and seems pretty slow as of late.
RB Derrick Henry is averaging a much better average of 4.8 yards-per-carry on the season, but in the last two games he’s gotten less than 3 yards per-carry.
Somehow this run went for four yards. pic.twitter.com/30gUblI4RD— Chely Lobatón (@chelylobaton) November 19, 2017
Against the Rams defense, which has the No. 6 passing defense (and held QB Russell Wilson to 71 yards), Mariota is going to be shouldering a lot of the load.