Todd Downing’s offense fails the Tennessee Titans in Week 1

Tennessee Titans (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Tennessee Titans (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The more things change the more they stay the same for the Tennessee Titans offense as they fail to do enough to close the game out in their loss to the New York Giants.

Maybe the most painful part of the whole experience is that there was hope early in the game as Todd Downing finally shook off some of those first-drive woes from last year with an excellent drive that resulted in a touchdown to open the game.

Unfortunately, it was downhill from there and the same mistakes that haunted this offense from last year hurt them again in a painfully inept-looking loss.

Case in point, the biggest plays of the game ended up being two 3rd and short-yardage play calls that resulted in stalled drives, and again we have to say that despite the influx of exciting new talent the offense looked uninspired, poorly executed, and regrettable.

Those two plays are indicative of the Tennessee Titans’ struggles

In both instances, Todd Downing managed to misuse Derrick Henry who did not look great himself but still finished the game averaging just about four yards a carry. In disturbing flashbacks to the shotgun zone-read play in the playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Todd Downing called a Wildcat counter and a tight-end jet-sweep in situations where not overthinking a straight-ahead run would have been a better option.

Some have said Henry should not have dropped the snap, which is true. Ideally, he catches the snap cleanly, of course, but let’s walk through decision-making again and take Derrick Henry out of the equation to see if this still sounds like a good call:

Todd Downing called a play that snaps the ball directly to a player who missed half of last season, has not played in any of the preseason games leading up to this game, and has already dropped a pass in this game.

It just is a gross miscalculation of risk and reward.

In his press conference, Mike Vrabel sounded just as deflated as many Tennessee Titans fans when speaking about the first of the two failed plays, “We gave it to Derrick on the wildcat and so that one didn’t work either.” (video below)

I’m pretty positive I heard Vrabel sigh before saying “wildcat” which pretty much sums things up.

It has been argued that execution rather than play calling was the issue. And, yes, Derrick Henry dropping the snap doomed that play from the start, but again it comes back to misusing your offensive weapons and putting them in positions to fail rather than succeed.

This misuse of offensive talent seems especially evident on a day where AJ Brown racked up a modest 10 catches and 155 yards in his Philadelphia Eagles debut.

More egregious than the failed wildcat play though was the Titan’s failed tight-end jet-sweep where Chig Okonkwo was called upon to pick up the measly one-yard, while Derrick Henry sat back and watched from the backfield surely wondering, “why?”

It’s times like these I remember my dad’s football wisdom: “If you aren’t confident enough in your running game to go out there and pick up one yard, you don’t deserve to win the game anyway.”

That could not have felt more true for the Titans today who found head-scratching ways to shoot themselves in the foot with bad play calling.

While there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides of the ball, it is inexcusable to have two 3rd and short plays that both end up going backward. Yes, execution has to be better, but the easiest way to avoid mistakes like dropping the snap from Henry or missing a block from Lewan is to stick with your bread and butter and run the dang ball with Henry with a full head of steam.

I cannot believe we have to keep saying that. Which is exactly the point, if this was a bad play-calling game that would be one thing… But it is a pattern of perennially bad calls that date back to his days as offensive coordinator of the Raiders.

Folks, we have found the common denominator.

The Titans had the opportunity to put the game away early but failing to score touchdowns left the door open and bad play calling did the rest. This loss puts the Tennessee Titans in a hole for the rest of the year and they will have to play better or else it may be time to hit the reset button, but it’s far too early to tell yet.

Unfortunately, it is not too early to tell that Todd Downing has managed to completely mismanage the offense into another inexcusable letdown of a performance. It has been clear from the start of last year that Downing’s offensive choices have put the team in bad situations over and over… and over… again.