After one game in the 2016 season, we’ve seen some very good and very concerning things from the Tennessee Titans. Their new running backs are as versatile and dangerous as fans and coaches hoped, and Marcus Mariota appears to have improved as a passer. There’s also the improvement of the front seven of the defense when it comes to stopping the run.
But for all the good we saw from the Titans on Sunday, they still lost the game. And that’s where the concern comes in.
The Titans’ secondary is still a work in progress, and the pass rush doesn’t appear to be as far along as hoped. Shaun hill, a 36-year-old quarterback who hadn’t started since 2014, ended up with 236 passing yards and was never sacked. Hill had a higher yard per attempt average than Mariota, and he found regular success with Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph despite having absolutely no run game to support him.
Now the Titans will be facing a much more potent passer when they travel to Detroit to take on quarterback Matt Stafford and the Lions.
Hill was able to do damage despite floating in passes to tight windows. His receivers were able to go make plays for him, and the Titans’ secondary wasn’t able to take advantage of those softer throws. The defensive front wasn’t able to take down the immobile Hill, either.
Detroit’s quarterback is a much, much different story, however.
Stafford is well known for his arm strength and ability to throw the ball around the yard. And he should be able to do so against Tennessee’s secondary. He certainly did against Indianapolis’ depleted secondary in the opening week. Stafford completed 79.5 percent of his passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns without tossing an interception. Stafford also distributed the ball to eight different receivers, and three different players caught his touchdown throws.
Not only that, but the Lions actually looked competent in the run game against the Colts last week. After ranking dead last in the NFL in rushing yards last season, the Lions ran for 116 yards and two scores on just 24 carries against Indy.
The Titans should be able to hold their own when it comes to stopping the run. but Stafford and his group of receivers should be able to take to the skies once again when they face the Titans.
Which make it important that the Titans play a much more efficient game on offense this week.
Detroit’s defense isn’t exactly stout. It allowed Andrew Luck to throw at will last week to the tune of 385 yards and four touchdowns. The Lions’ defense didn’t force a single turnover and only managed to sack Luck twice despite the Colts’ weak offensive line.
The Titans have the offense to do damage against that weak Detroit defense. They just need to clean up their act.
Tennessee was in prime position to pull of an impressive victory over Minnesota after taking a 10-0 lead into halftime. But the Titans gave the ball away three times in the second half, and two of those directly resulted in points by the Vikings’ defense. There was also the fact that the Titans’ run game was largely ineffective despite both DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry making plays in the pass game. The two combined to have just 45 yards on 18 carries.
If the Titans are going to win against the Lions, they need the offense to step up its game. Mariota has to be on point and the run game has to have success. The best thing for the Titans’ offense to do would be to play ball control offense and keep the Lions’ offense off the field as much as possible. If they can do that and keep their defense fresh, they have a legitimate shot at getting a win in Detroit, a place they have never lost in two previous trips since the Titans franchise moved to Tennessee.
The last time these two teams met, the Titans prevailed 47-41 in overtime in 2012. If Tennessee can find its rhythm on offense this week, that score could be replicated. The Titans will need a better performance from their secondary, but they have a better defense than Indy. If they can get the key stops they need and turn in a stronger offensive showing, the Titans could end up the victors in this one.