On Thursday night, the Tennessee Titans dismantled the Jacksonville Jaguars 36-22. The scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story, as the Titans went into halftime up 27 points and played prevent defense for much of the rest of the game. What can we take away from that great primetime win?
These are not your father’s Titans (just kidding, but this team is much better than last year)
The Titans have already bested their 2015 record of 3-13 midway through the 2016 season. At 4-4, in a division where no one is separating themselves or looking all that good, the playoffs are within reach. Not since last year’s week one pummeling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the Titans dominated a first half like they did last night. As Marcus Mariota pointed to in his postgame comments, this was the first time all year (and nearly all of last year) that all three phases of the team played great. The offense was unstoppable, the defense was impenetrable and special teams wasn’t terrible.
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Game after game last year (and years prior), the Titans were getting blown out. Aside from the Bucs win, the Titans other two wins were by a combined nine points. They finished the year with a -124 (!!) point differential. So far this year, the Titans haven’t lost a game by more than nine points, have been within one score or won in seven of eight games and own a -1 point differential, which is best in the division. I’m not going to act like this team is great. There are still plenty of flaws within the team, and we’ve seen them pop up in division losses to the Texans and Colts. As much maligned as Mike Mularkey has been, and rightfully so, he’s kept his team in every single game. We haven’t had that in a while.
Derrick Henry got some well-deserved run
For weeks I had been championing for Henry to get more touches than the minuscule amount he was being given. Finally, I got my wish on Thursday night. Henry was involved early, scoring a six yard rushing touchdown on the Titans first drive of the second quarter. While he only finished with 3.6 yards per carry, much of that can be attributed to the Titans being so ahead and using him in situations where the defense could key on the run because it was clear the Titans were running the clock out. Before the fourth quarter (and true garbage time) began, Henry had totaled 54 rushing yards on nine carries and three catches for 26 yards. He was plowing over dudes and showing off his deceptive quickness and speed.
DeMarco Murray simply can’t continue to shoulder the workloads he has gotten. I understand that it’s hard to go away from him because of his stellar performance, but he currently has 188 touches at the midpoint of the season. He had just 237 touches in 15 games last season. Given Murray’s injury history prior to 2014 and the fact that he’s undergoing an MRI for his toe, it would be wise for the Titans to continue to mix in Henry even more going forward.
Marcus Mariota is going to be a star in this league
Yes, it was the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, Mariota was pretty awful during the first few weeks of the season. What’s also true is that Mariota has been playing the best ball of his career over these last four weeks. During this four game span, he’s completed 68.8 percent of his passes with a 10:1 touchdown to interception ratio, while also adding 149 rushing yards and a touchdown. Last night, he pasted the Jaguards defense to the tune of 270 yards and two touchdowns on just 22 pass attempts. His performance last night was the best of any quarterback this season by numberFire’s metrics and the best of Mariota’s young career, according to PFF. Titans fans, let’s just be happy that we have one of the most talented players in the NFL and one of the nicest, most humble humans as the face of our franchise.