NASHVILLE, Tenn.– Nothing dashes an NFL fan’s hope faster than a Week One loss at home. Especially, when their team carried a double-digit lead into halftime.
Here are the notable Titans’ observations from Sunday’s game:
1. The Defense Is Legitimate
Tennessee’s defense did not allow a Vikings’ offensive touchdown and held All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson to 31 rushing yards on 19 carries. The Titans went into the the locker room at half pitching a 10-0 shutout and merely bent in allowing four Blair Walsh field goals. Outside linebacker Derrick Morgan did not return after sustaining a hamstring injury during the third quarter.
2. Rattled Mariota and Murray Caused Second-Half Implosion
Marcus Mariota was pick-sixed by Eric Kendricks for a 77-yard score and had another interception called back. The young quarterback also claimed responsibility for a fumbled handoff between he and running back DeMarco Murray that led to Danielle Hunter recovering the ball for a 24-yard touchdown. Murray had an additional fumble that was lost bringing the total to three Minnesota-forced turnovers on the day.
3. Running Backs Contribute to Passing Game
Murray and rookie Derrick Henry showed that Mike Mularkey’s and Terry Robiskie’s offense is dynamic, fluid and fun to watch despite the roster’s construction resembling a team built in the early 90’s. Murray nabbed both of Mariota’s touchdown tosses; the first of which came on a highlight-reel somersault over a defender into the end zone. On second and seven to go a little over six minutes into the first quarter, Henry caught a play-action pass behind the line of scrimmage, shook two defenders and cut it back for a 29-yard gain. The two combined for seven catches for 76 yards.
4. Rushing Attack Virtually Non-Existant
Tennessee’s emphasized run game that amassed the second-most yards on the ground this preseason was utterly stifled. Mariota and his two backs combined for 64 yards on 22 carries for an abysmal 2.9 yard average. 16 yards on eight carries in the second half and two Murray fumbles contributed to a flustered Mariota forcing throws. The longest run of the day was a twelve-yard gain by Murray. Henry finished with five carries for three yards.
Ruh Roh #Titans
— Darren McFarland (@dmac_1025) September 11, 2016
5. Sharpe Shines but Passing Game Limited
Fifth-round rookie Tajae Sharpe was Mariota’s go-to target Sunday. Sharpe was targeted 11 times and caught seven balls for 76 yards, the longest of which was a 17-yard gain. Only two of Mariota’s passes went for more than 20 yards, including the check-down to Henry that the running back took for 29. Tight end Delaine Walker received only three passes a season after setting franchise records for catches and receiving yards. Mariota finished with 25 of 41 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns, an interception that was returned for a touchdown and a fumbled hand-off.
NEXT UP: The Titans travel to Ford Field to take on the Lions of Detroit.
Information from ESPN.com, The Tennessean and TitansOnline.com contributed to this report.