— Terry McCormick (@terrymc13) December 9, 2013
Think back to one month ago. That was Week 10. A 4-4 Tennessee Titans team hosted a 0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars team who likely had the roughest eight-game stretch in NFL history. The Titans were seen as a contender for the AFC’s sixth and final playoff berth. Fans were hopeful that this team could take advantage of an Indianapolis Colts team who had just lost Reggie Wayne.
Week 14 is in the books. The Jaguars have won four of their last five games. At 4-9, Jacksonville has crawled to within one game of a Titans team who just lost 51-28 to the Denver Broncos. With upcoming home games against the Buffalo Bills and Titans, the Jaguars could pass the Titans in the AFC South standings.
Here was a tweet from Alterraun Verner:
Excited for this weeks challenge. If you want to be the best you got to beat the best! (Created with… http://t.co/VvwtQCl39y
— Alterraun Verner (@Alvern_1) December 3, 2013
Beat the best? Let’s compare some key statistics:
Points: Broncos 51, Titans 28
Plays: Broncos 91, Titans 48
First Downs: Broncos 39, Titans 15
Yards: Broncos 551, Titans 254
Takeaways: Broncos 2, Titans 0
The Broncos had more fourth-down conversions (3-of-3) than the Titans had third-down conversions (2-of-9). The Titans had zero sacks. Peyton Manning completed 39-of-59 passes for 397 yards with four touchdowns. Six different receivers had at least five receptions. Four different receivers had touchdowns. Every Broncos offensive possession was brought into Titans territory.
Here’s the amazing part: at the end of the third quarter, the Broncos led 34-28. That’s it. The Titans’ playoff hopes—and maybe the coaching staff’s job security beyond 2013—was right within reach. 15 minutes with a couple defensive stops, some time-consuming drives with no turnovers, and smart football? The Titans could’ve pulled the biggest upset of the entire season, pulling within one game of the AFC’s No. 6 seed.
Forget about it. The Titans were so terrible that John Fox—normally a conservative coach—elected to go for a 4th-and-1 at the Titans 18-yard-line. At that point, there was about five minutes left in the game.The Broncos already had a 16-point lead. A chip-shot field goal would’ve made it a three-possession lead.
That conversion was no problem. Instead of 47-28, the Broncos took a 51-28 lead. At least Leon Washington had a big kickoff return that set up the Titans’ second touchdown. Washington has made a nice impact on special teams. A little too late in the season…but still.
Meanwhile, the Colts continue to suffer double-digit blowouts to every team who isn’t the Titans. It doesn’t matter though. Indianapolis can remain in that slump for the rest of the month and it won’t do much damage to their potential playoff seeding. Because of Tennessee’s inability to defeat division rivals, Indianapolis clinched the division title with a 42-28 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Earlier this week, I called this Titans vs Broncos battle “a measuring stick.” How do the Titans compare to the AFC’s elite? How would a desperate Titans team perform against the conference’s best team? Would they rise up to the challenge or fold like the 2012 team?
Count this as another game where the Titans start off strong, a tiny momentum shift occurs, then BOOM! A 21-10 lead becomes a 41-7 drubbing, a 51-28 final.
Every game includes the same story. The other team gets a takeaway, scores right before the half, or makes a record-breaking field goal. Something insignificant that shouldn’t have that big of an impact on the game, however, it always does. Matt Prater makes his 64-yard field goal and it’s as if this team goes into the “here we go again” mode. They were still winning 21-20 and one could tell that their energy was depleted after that play!
This game was much worse, much uglier than the 51-28 score indicates. No NFL team should get blown out in that fashion. Over the last couple of seasons, Munchak’s team has allowed it to happen far too often. Remember that the 2012 team had seven double-digit blowouts. They weren’t even competitive in most of those games.
Compare the head coaches from this matchup. Fox and Munchak have had the same amount of time (three seasons). Even before Manning arrived in 2012, the Broncos enjoyed a playoff appearance—and wild-card win—with Tim Tebow.
Three seasons is plenty of time to have gotten beyond the .500 line, especially in a conference that lacks a truly dominant team.
Let’s look at a few other things
- Justin Hunter had four receptions for 114 yards with a 55-yard touchdown. No doubt that Hunter should’ve been playing a lot sooner. As long as he can stay healthy, Hunter has shown that he could develop into the playmaker that Kenny Britt was supposed to become. Those high draft picks on wide receivers may pay off if the Titans can find a quarterback who can get them the football.
- Speaking of quarterbacks, Ryan Fitzpatrick had another unimpressive day. He was 13-of-24 for 172 yards with a touchdown and interception. Furthermore, Fitzpatrick had a four-yard quarterback draw that kept a drive alive on fourth down. While Fitzpatrick wasn’t the main reason for this loss, better quarterback play could’ve made it closer.
- The Titans need at least one young pair of legs at running back. Maybe a better coaching staff could get more out of Chris Johnson but he isn’t worth the money he’s making.
- I’m getting tired of the avoidable unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. This team isn’t good enough to overcome stupidity.
- As far as Bernard Pollard‘s shoulder-to-shoulder hit, that’s what happens to players who have bad reputations.
- Seeing Eric Decker getting blasted put a smile on my face. Watching him yell at the Titans sideline just annoyed me, especially the second time when it was more than obvious that Michael Griffin was injured. Fortunately, neither player was seriously injured and both returned.
- Overall, the defense was atrocious.
That’s about it. What’s your take on this matchup or any changes that Tennessee must make in 2014? Give us your take in the comments, Twitter or Facebook.