The offensive performance that the Tennessee Titans turned in against the Green Bay Packers was easily their best of the season, and everyone involved deserves to be commended.
While Derrick Henry had a solid game overall, his 87 yards on 28 carries were not very impressive for his standards, and it was great to see what the passing game could do when he was not absolutely dominating.
Ryan Tannehill had an elite performance, the pass protection actually held up well, and the breakout of Treylon Burks showed the potential of this receiving core and how lethal the overall offense can be.
Todd Downing also deserves credit for spreading the ball around and putting his playmakers in situations where they could get open and pick up significant yards, while also avoiding the unnecessary and risky calls that have doomed the team.
Even then, the offense still could have been better in a lot of ways. While it is hard to argue that play-calling held them back in Green Bay, some of the same trends from previous games re-appeared and raised the question of what could have been if they eliminated such trends.
Tennessee Titans are not quite maximizing their offensive potential
One of the hallmarks of the Tennessee Titans offense under Arthur Smith was the play-action pass. The stress that it put on defenses was part of the reason that they scored 30 points per game during the 2020 season.
The way they mixed up the run and pass while still playing to their strengths made them so difficult to stop, and under Downing, much of that has been missing.
This game was a lot of the same in that regard, and you could see that with what they did on first down. Of the 26 first-down plays they ran — excluding the final kneel-down when the game was over — the Titans ran the ball 16 times, and a lot of those runs were ineffective.
Even though the Tennessee Titans were leading for the majority of these runs, the conservative play-calling when up by a comfortable amount tends to lead to quick drives that yield no points. That of course did not happen last Thursday, but it makes the Titans more predictable and also hurts Henry’s potential for big gains because the opposition knows what’s coming.
Another reoccurring issue that came up in this game, as suggested, was the lack of play-action passing. For some reason, the Titans under Downing have tended to feature a lot of shotgun or empty backfield formations, and the former was used heavily without involving Henry most of the time.
Even more baffling is that the Titans did well in pass protection last Thursday, yet they still opted for more shotgun passes than most others they did.
Did they not see how successful the game-ending play-action pass to Treylon Burks was? Yes, it was at a time when the Packers especially did not expect it, but it still goes to show how successful that kind of play can be.
To be fair, in the second half, the percentage of play-action was higher than in the first half, and that was when they had some of their most explosive plays. So hopefully, they can carry that into this Sunday’s game against the Bengals because that is when they are at their best.
The Titans need to truly game-plan and lean on Henry in more ways than just having him run the ball. Opposing defenses are going to commit to stopping him above all else, so if the offense could incorporate more play-action passes out of the single back and i-formations, especially on first downs, they could be more unpredictable and harder to stop.
The Titans still did very well offensively last Thursday, and with more contributions from an already impressive rookie class to come, some more necessary adjustments could take this unit to the next level. Still, things are looking up for an offense that has been tough to watch for the vast majority of the season.