Tennessee Titans Week 1 Review: Reeling in the Optimism


Sep 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen (28) and safety Ryan Clark (25) during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about the Tennessee Titans coming off of their Week 1 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. People are saying the Titans pulled off a surprising upset in an impressive win. I’ve even heard some folks call it a “beat down.”

Let’s get one thing straight: the Titans did not put a “beat down” on anyone. They haven’t done that since Week 10 of 2012 when they demolished the Miami Dolphins by a score of 37-3.

A seven-point victory is not a beat down. A great start to the season? Of course. An impressive road win? Sure. But a beat down? Absolutely not.

Websters defines “beat down” as “to crush the spirit of” (no, I’m not kidding, “beat down” is actually in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary). The point is, the Titans did not crush anyone’s spirits.

Titans fans, remember how you all felt after the New England Patriots completely obliterated Tennessee 59-0 on that snowy day in October of 2009? That’s what it feels like when a team crushes its opponent’s spirit.

What I’m saying say is that ESPN released their updated Power Rankings on Tuesday. The Titans came in at No. 22. I agree with that ranking. The Titans have not yet proven that they have morphed into a good football team.

This next thought may contradict what other reports have led you to believe, but the Tennessee Titans did not play well on Sunday. Their 229 yards of total offense was only better than the Jacksonville Jaguars (arguably the NFL’s worst team) and, incidentally, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Titans converted only 6-of-15 third-down attempts. That was good enough for just 17th in the league. The Carolina Panthers (who lost 12-7) had a better conversion percentage.

The Titans made four trips to the red zone, where they went on to score one touchdown—their only one of the day. It’s great that the Titans took care of the football, but when a team does not turn the ball over, you expect them to score more than 16 points.

In addition, the Titans looked fairly undisciplined, committing 6 penalties for 60 yards. One of those, a 15-yard personal foul on veteran tackle David Stewart, killed what could’ve been a potential touchdown-scoring drive. What was 1st-and-10 at the 18-yard-line turned into 2nd-and-27 at the 35.

The Titans’ supposedly revamped offensive line did not look good. On a whopping 40 rushing attempts, the Titans managed a disappointing 116 yards. (Jake Locker also knelt twice for -4 yards).

116 yards on 40 carries is a yard-per-carry average of 2.9, good enough for 22nd in the league. The Titans longest run of the day went for just 11 yards. None of the running backs could find lanes to run through an injury-depleted defense. This was not a case of Chris Johnson falling down at the line of scrimmage. There was just nowhere for him to go.

The pass-blocking was not much better. Locker was only sacked one time, but he was hit thrice and forced to scramble outside the pocket on a number of occasions. Speaking of Locker, he did not look like the franchise quarterback I was hoping he could be.

Locker started the game completing just four of his first 10 pass attempts. He went on to complete seven of his next 10, which is all well and good, but opening the game 4-of-10 does not exactly put the defense on its heels. Neither does throwing for just 125 yards in the entire game. You can blame Locker, or you can blame Dowell Loggains‘ predictable play-calling. Or you can blame Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright for failing to get any kind of separation in this game.

I will admit there were a few occasions where Locker made plays that impressed me, but there were more disappointing throws than impressive ones. In today’s NFL, I don’t care how much you think you can run the ball, 125 passing yards does not win football games against playoff contenders.

Next week, the Texans are going to game plan to stop the run. They will probably be successful, as Houston has a top-notch defense. I’m not confident that Locker can put this team on his back and go win a football game against a playoff team.

Do I even need to mention the Darius Reynaud blunder that will probably be No. 1 on SportsCenter’s not-top 10?

As negative as this article may be, I concede that there really isn’t anything bad to say about the defense. I could tell you that Pittsburgh lost their starting center on their opening drive, that they didn’t have their starting running back, and that they lost their change-of-pace guy to injury in this game.

I could remind you that their dual-threat receiver/blocker Heath Miller was absent from the contest as well, that they’re top receiving threat from the last three years now plays for a different team, or that they managed a relatively easy touchdown drive on Tennessee’s most important defensive possession, but what purpose would that serve?

Jurrell Casey looked like a monster. Zach Brown is clearly not allergic to contact. But the Pittsburgh Steelers do not have a particularly threatening offense.

My goal here is not to put a beat down on the expectations of Titans fans after an impressive road win. If the Titans pull off the upset over the Houston Texans on the road, we’re having a different conversation next week.

It sounds harsh. Reality is sometimes harsh. And the reality is that the Titans have a bad offense and a defense that got to play one of the few offenses that are worse than their own.

I know I glossed over a lot of positives, but that’s because the negatives are what really stood out to me. If you want to read about how well the Titans played, read a different article. Literally any other article.

As a Titans fan, I get it. I feel the long-absent excitement just like you do. I’m simply trying to reel back the optimism to a more sensible level.

Want to argue with me? You can do so on Twitter @JGra_TitanSized, or call-in to Titan Sized Radio while you’re listening live every Tuesday night.