NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Days such as this past Sunday present a difficulty for me when I write. How can I adequately describe how unpleasant a viewing experience the Tennessee Titans (1-2) 19-7 preseason loss at the hands of the Chicago Bears (2-1) was without whining about watching football for a living? Undoubtedly, an approach exists that would allow me to sound less obnoxious, right?
Eh, maybe. But, there will be another time to explore that option.
On Sunday, the Titans starting units performed so poorly in their third preseason game that the only thing more repugnant than what occurred on the field happened in the stands during one of the game’s stoppages for a television commercial break. During the pause, the Nissan Stadium “Kiss Cam” made the rounds and happened upon a young couple. The male, caught rummaging around in his nostril on camera, proceeded to eat his findings in Jim Harbaugh-esque fashion and then plant a nice, booger-flavored smooch on his significant other (I was told later that the entire thing was put on for show. But, I have my doubts).
Luck lady, but I digress.
As is the custom in a team’s third preseason game, coach Mike Mularkey left the starters out on the field for much of Sunday’s action. The first-team defense played into the second quarter (some stayed through the third), while quarterback Marcus Mariota and the ones on offense played into the start of the fourth to finish a drive that put them inside the 20.
But the starters (offensively, in particular) did not receive typical amount of preseason extended playing time because how slowly Tennessee started.
On Chicago’s first possession, Mike Glennon quarterbacked his team effortlessly through a 15 play, 96-yard opening drive which resulted in touchdown pass to tight end Dion Sims. Three of those Bears completions came when throwing in the direction of first-round rookie cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who received his first preseason start on the right side of the secondary opposite Logan Ryan. Jackson was also called for a defensive pass interference in the end zone, which expedited Sim’s score.
“I was there some plays, but I need to trust myself more and understand what was going on,” Jackson said when evaluating his performance post-game. “Once the game slowed down for me I was anticipating routes, but I wasn’t sure. … I just have to get better get back in the film room and get better.”
The 18th-overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft also erred on special teams, opting to field a punt at the three-yard line where he was immediately dropped.
On the other side of the football, the Titans sustained offensive mediocrity.
Running back DeMarco Murray returned to the line-up for his first preseason action but was rendered ineffective on his six rushes for 16 yards. Backup Derrick Henry, who has received much acclaim this offseason only contributed 9 attempts for 24 yards on the ground. The offense was scoreless until the first play of the final quarter against Chicago backups. Outside of the meager yardage output, a mere 19 first downs and a third-down efficiency of 25%, the offense was also plagued by needless penalties.
Quinton Spain throwing harder jabs than Conor pic.twitter.com/91dvsoShx2
— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) August 27, 2017
Starting left guard Quinton Spain and Bears defensive lineman Jaye Howard were ejected for this second-quarter kerfuffle; Spain threw the first punch. Left Tackle Taylor Lewan was also flagged twice for a facemask and holding penalty respectively that wiped out two pass completions.
Playing without receivers Corey Davis, Eric Decker and Harry Douglas, Mariota finished the day with 12 completions on 21 attempts for 193 yards and a three-yard touchdown pass to Henry. He was occasionally inaccurate, sailing a few high over targets and never really looked comfortable in the pocket but closed well on the 11-play, 90-yard drive that yielded the Titans first points.
“Too many mistakes,” Mularkey said. “We have a lot of work to do. Same old thing with making too many mistakes. We have to overcome ourselves, let alone to beat anybody.”
- Taywan Shines – Mariota was aided by the presence of rookie third-round receiver Taywan Taylor, who again took full
advantage of the reps he was given. Running largely with the starters, Taylor flashed versatility when he contributed 12 yards on three carries and the toughness to fight for extra yards on a 48-yard catch on third-and-31 to give the Titans a fresh set of downs.
- Special Teams: Ryan Suck-oped – I’m sorry, Ryan, you don’t suck. It’s just that I’m kind of tired while finishing this and the joke was such low hanging fruit. It’s not even a good one now that I’m reading this back but, bleep it, we’re already this far. Kicker Ryan Succop missed a field goal wide left from 40-yards out in the second quarter that would have been Tennessee’s first points of the game. Additionally, Kern had a punt blocked in the same quarter that resulted in a safety and a 9-0 Chicago lead.
- The “Where Are They Now” All-Stars – I was shocked to learn in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s tepid affair that former salsa-dancing wide receiver Victor Cruz is a Bear. Almost as astonished as I was last week to see that Julius Peppers is again a Carolina Panther or that Anquan Boldin was, for a brief time, a Buffalo Bill.