NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Following his team’s 12-7 failing against the Arizona Cardinals (6-7) in Glendale, Tennessee Titans (8-5) coach Mike Mularkey held a conference call for members of the Nashville media in lieu of his weekly press conference at St. Thomas Sports Park as they continue an extended West Coast stay.
Tennessee travels to Santa Clara in Week 15 to take on the San Francisco 49ers (3-10), who are riding a three-game winning streak.
- QB INJURY
- Starting quarterback Marcus Mariota sustained a left knee sprain during Sunday’s 12-7 loss in the desert. The third-year quarterback slid awkwardly to avoid an oncoming Arizona defender and the ailment affected him and Tennessee’s plan for the remainder of the game, according to coach Mike Mularkey.
- “It affected a number of things,” Mularkey said when asked about the injury. “It limited us game-plan wise, what we had in our game plan, more than you can imagine. Yeah, I think it did. I know it was on (Mariota’s) mind. He missed some throws he usually doesn’t miss. I definitely think it had a little bit of an effect, it certainly did in the play calling.”
- Mariota had one of his least impressive outings of the season against the Cardinals, completing 16 of his 31 passes for 159 yards and two interceptions. He scrambled two times for a total of 11 yards.
- It is not the first time that Mariota has dealt with left-knee difficulties; suffering an MCL sprain on the same one his rookie season. Mularkey was confident that his quarterback would be limited participant in practice on Wednesday and ready in time for Sunday.
The Titans offensive execution has been a topic discussed ad nauseam throughout the season as the team appears to be still struggling to get in sync through 14 weeks of the season. Rookies Taywan Taylor and Corey Davis have provided youth, speed and play-making ability to a wide receiver corps that was in need of a talent infusion coming into the season but their inexperience comes with inconsistency.
- I’d say, especially for Corey (Davis), probably where he’s going to be based on all the time missed, which was a significant amount of time. He is making a lot of plays,” Mularkey said about the progression of the two. “The play he chipped Chandler Jones and knocked him into the three and knocked them both down and came up with a big catch on the sideline prior to the half, that’s kind of what he’s capable of. He had some chances. He had a post thrown to him that I thought was interference that didn’t get called, might have had a chance for a touchdown there. He’s definitely gotten better each week with the time he’s playing. And Taywan (Taylor), just another young player that’s not getting the number of snaps that Corey is, and learning from each one of them. I think they’re kind of where we thought they would be.”
- Mariota missed an open Taylor on his only target of the game in the middle of the field early on because the third-round pick “did not look early enough,” according to his coach. Taylor finished without a catch; Davis was targeted six times and caught three balls for 29 yards.
- RUN DEFENSE RELAPSE
- Tennessee’s defense stood tall against the Cardinals despite missing key players DaQuan Jones (placed on IR with a bicep injury) and Derrick Morgan (knee). Erik Walden, David King, Austin Johnson, Kevin Dodd and Karl Klug showcased the depth on that side of the ball, as well. The offense’s inability to sustain drives, however, did not do their defensive counterparts any favors, who gave up 136 yards rushing for a total well above the unit’s season average.
- “I think we’ll miss DaQaun (Jones), especially the way he was playing the last two games. There’s no question about that,” said Mularkey when asked about the Cardinals success on the ground.”I’ll say this, we’ve been very disciplined with where we’re supposed to be in the run game the last six, seven weeks, really disciplined. Not stick our nose where it shouldn’t be. We didn’t do that yesterday. There were times we were taking chances and trying to make plays that weren’t ours and they hit us. It was a great lesson learned. I told those guys, I thought it was a dominating performance by our defense, could’ve been even more. If we had just done the job that we’ve been doing for six or seven weeks and not try to do anything more, they might have had even more of a dominant performance.”
- The Titans rush defense has been it’s hallmark this season, allowing only 90.0 yards per game through 14 weeks. The pass rush also did its part and got to quarterback Blaine Gabbert often for another eight-sack outing. Since November 26th in Indianapolis, the team’s 20 sacks in three games are the most by any NFL team in a three-game span in 2017.Defesive coordinator Dick LeBeau and company held Arizona to only four field goals and 261 total yards.
- QUICK FIX
- Offensively, Tennessee has looked stagnant often this season, pulling out close wins with late-game heroics and timely turnovers by the defense. Against Arizona, coordinator Terry Robiskie’s unit scored only one touchdown and, on the season, is averaging only 21.0 points per game (19th).
- “Yeah, I think it’s very fixable,” Mularkey said. “There’s things in life that aren’t, this is one that is. We’ve got a good group, we’ve got a very good staff – very, very veteran staff that’s been in a lot of meetings and a lot of rooms, and a lot of games and been with a lot of players. Fortunately these guys trust what we’re going to do – again, looking it all over, how we can get better, everybody is. It’s being addressed.”
- More concerning than the below-average scoring output is the team’s inability to convert on third down. The Titans are 24th in the league in 2017 with a third-down conversion rate of 36.4%, a steep drop from the 2016 campaign when they finished third (46.1%) behind only New Orleans and Green Bay.
INJURY REPORT: Left tackle Taylor Lewan suffered an injury to his lower back in the first half Sunday and was ruled out for the duration of the contest. The Arizona native expressed his disappointment in not being able to play the full 60 minutes in front of friends and family and said he woke up with stiffness in his back but decided to try to to play through it.
Mularkey said he believes that the injury to Lewan is “not too serious” after the Pro Bowler had an MRI done Monday and said Lewan might be limited at practice Wednesday. Mularkey also expressed his confidence that Lewan will be available against San Francisco on Sunday.
Morgan and tight end Phillip Supernaw (ankle) are not expected to practice on Wednesday.