The Tennessee Titans were, yet again, blown out, this time at home to the hands of the divisional leaders, the Houston Texans. The game started poorly for a Titans team lead by quarterback Zach Mettenberger. They found themselves trailing by ten at the end of the first quarter and never really showed signs of improving. A touchdown in the final few minutes of the game prevented the Titans from being shut out at home for the first time since moving to the Music City, but did not help heal the wounds of a demoralising 34-6 loss at Nissan Stadium. Let’s take a look at a few takeaways from the game.
Fumbles lose games, and that’s a fact.
The first fumble for Tennessee came inside the first five plays of the game. A harmless hit on Antonio Andrews resulted in the ball popping loose. When you give the ball up around your own 20-yard line the results are never good, and of course, it was not, as the Texans returned the fumble for a touchdown. This was Andrews’ second and final carry of the game as his mistake got him replaced by rookie David Cobb. He made a brief return in the passing game, however he gave up an interception.
The second was another first quarter turnover, this time it was a muffed punt. When you are a struggling football team with a defense ranked 24th in points allowed per game, you have to take advantage of a defensive stop. Receiver Harry Douglas received the punt and made just a handful of yardage before being hit hard and coughing up the ball. The ball was recovered by Houston and resulted in a field goal.
The final fumble, yes there was another, was committed by Mettenberger on a forced fumble by Houston’s defensive star J.J Watt. Mettenberger held onto the ball just a little too long and was punished for it.
The Titans just cannot win games with this many fumbles. Ball protection is so vital to getting wins. Without the ball, a team has to rely heavily on the defense, and the Titans can’t afford to do this with the defense it has. It is just not durable enough.
Titans need to keep Kendall Wright healthy.
The Titans are just not talented enough at the wide out position to lose Wright for sustained periods and still expect to move the ball well in the passing game. He is undoubtedly the most skilled and proven wide receiver on the Titans roster, but has missed far too many games this year. That’s hurting the Titans chance to be effective in the passing game. He’s missed a total of six games. Tennessee has had to rely heavily on tight end Delanie Walker to be a top target for Mariota and Mettenberger. He has shown he can perform as a top tight end, but he needs help. Rookie receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has loads of raw talent, but talent isn’t enough to win games, so he needs to make plays. This could be an area the Titans look to use a high draft pick on.
The O line needs to help the run game.
The offensive line improved much from the last time the Titans and Texans met, when Zach Mettenberger was sacked 7 times. This time, Mettenberger was only taken down once by J.J Watt, however the run game suffered for it. There were rarely holes for the backs to hit, and even when there was, the gains were minimal. Part of the blame does have to fall on the underwhelming running back situation in Tennessee. There are a handful of power backs, but no speed back to hit the gaps at velocity. When space was created by the offensive line, they were not taken advantage of. A total of 13 first downs were achieved by the Titans, but only one from rushing. The run game has to take some pressure off of Mettenberger and Mariota.