Buck Reising, Tennessee Titans reporter and host of Tackling Music City, provides three observations from the team’s 27-20 Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Not one but two weather delays did their part to dampen the Tennessee Titans in their 2018 NFL season opener against the Dolphins in Miami, costing rookie head coach Mike Vrabel his first victory at the helm 27-20. Here are three items of note:
- Disastrous Debut
- Delays, a fight and injuries, among other things, marred Tennessee’s first game of the season. A total run time of seven hours and eight minutes due to weather cause an unwelcome number of starts and stops. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was lost for the game in the third quarter after sustaining an elbow injury on a hit from Miami defensive end William Hayes and Blaine Gabbert finished out the remainder of play. Mariota was unimpressive in his first action of the year before exiting, completing nine of his 16 passes for 103 yards and back-to-back interceptions. The two picks came on his first two passes after the injury, though he did offer that as an excuse.
- Starting left tackle Taylor Lewan (concussion) and Delanie Walker (ankle) also endured early exits due to injury. A blindside hit on Lewan after Mariota’s initial turnover sparked the near exchanging of blows between the two sides. Jordan Phillips, Bobby McCain and Dion Lewis all received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the play.
- Walker reportedly sustained a dislocated ankle and an associated fracture, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, after being rolled up awkwardly with 3:38 remaining in the game. He was carted off the field with his right leg in an air cast. The injury likely ends his season.
- (Non) Officiating
- The hit that ended Mariota’s night did not draw a penalty on the defender that took him out, surprisingly. Mariota did act like he pulled the ball on the option play before handing it off to Derrick Henry, which allows for the defensive contact, but the rarely outspoken quarterback threw his arms up in dismay afterwards and deservedly so. Jerome Boger and Co. did not flag Hayes for his free run at Mariota’s legs, which, in almost every other other documented circumstance would draw a penalty in favor of the quarterback.
- “I thought it was late and low but that’s not a decision for me to make,” Mariota said.
- After the first Mariota interception, penalties were called on both sides for taunting in the ensuing fight. But the fight was a direct result of the blindside hit put on Lewan by Andre Branch. The blindside hit on Lewan was not flagged and the optics of a concussed Lewan lying lifeless on the field as defenders jawed over him were sub-optimal for a league looking to improve player safety.
- Derrick Henry also broke off what would have been a 62-yard run for a score but the play was wiped out by a holding call on Delanie Walker. Video replay showed no evidence of Walker committing the foul and instead appeared to have his face mask being yanked on the same play by Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker. The face mask penalty was not called.
- Lightning Strikes
- The aforementioned weather delays sent both Tennessee and Miami back into their respective locker rooms twice during the course of play. The first, an hour and fifty-seven minutes in length, occurred late in the second quarter. The Titans trailed 7-3 and faced a third-and-one at their own 24 when officials suspended play.
- The second came after a potential game-changing interception by Malcolm Butler with 6:47 to play in the third quarter and lasted a total of two hours and two minutes. In doing so, the Week 1 match-up became the longest game in league history since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger, per Elias Sports Bureau, topping a five-hour, sixteen-minute contest between the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens in November of 2013.