Buck Reising, Tennessee Titans reporter and host of Tackling Music City, provides three observations from the team’s 13-12 Week 5 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A four-game win streak was not in the cards for the Tennessee Titans coming off two divisional wins and a victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. Buffalo held their own and drilled a 46-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka as time expired to send Tennessee packing after an unsuccessful trip to Orchard Park. Here is what else stood out:
- All-Around Sloppiness
- As cliché as the saying is, the Bills deserve full credit for their victory Sunday but Tennessee seemingly did everything in their power to lose what looked to be a gimme game. Two lost fumbles by Taywan Taylor and Dion Lewis and a Marcus Mariota interception sandbagged the Titans efforts both early on and late in the contest. A dropped would-be touchdown pass from Mariota to Nick Williams on a 3rd-and-four in the fourth quarter forced Matt LaFleur’s offense to settle for a fourth Ryan Succop field goal and gave Tennessee a 12-10 lead with 4:47 remaining in the game. The defense that had played admirably despite their offensive counterparts being stuck in the mud could not contain LeSean McCoy on Buffalo’s final possession and allowed Josh Allen & Co. to kill off the final 4:43 on an 11-play drive that resulted in Hauschka’s game-winner.
- “It was the Number 1 key to the game coming in,” said coach Mike Vrabel of his team’s turnovers. “We knew that these guys really feasted off of it and they were hunting them up and we didn’t do a good enough job of taking care of the football. We didn’t do a good enough job stopping the run when we had to. So, it’s no secret why you lose.”
- Defensively, the Titans had given up an average of 118 rushing yards per game through their first four contests of 2018. McCoy, Allen and Chris Ivory dragged Tennessee for 144 yards on the ground and a 14-yard score by Allen to help mitigate what was a dismal day (79 net yards passing and an Allen interception) by their air attack.
- Lewan Lost (For Now)
- Starting left tackle Taylor Lewan left the game in the second quarter with an injury to his right foot and did not return for the remainder of the game. With Kevin Pamphile on IR and Dennis Kelly still working his way back from a mystery illness, Tyler Marz was thrust into action.
- “It was swollen after the last game,” Lewan said, per Paul Kuharsky. “I don’t really know why but then I went down and I didn’t fall or anything on it. I just felt a little snap, a little pop. It’s not broken, so that’s good. Get an MRI on it (Monday) and we’ll see how it goes.”
- Marz, who played admirably in the team’s Week 2 victory over Houston, did not shore up Mariota’s blindside nearly as well against Buffalo. Mariota was sacked twice but was consistently under duress from the rush and Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes who got the best of Marz several times. It was Hughes who brought an end to the Titans final drive with a strip sack of Mariota on third down. Tennessee recovered but was forced to kick the 50-yard field goal rather than make a play to extend the drive or get a score.
- Offensive Regression Or Return To Form?
- Through five games, it has been tough to get a read on LaFleur’s offense. Availability of core personnel has been an impediment but Week 5 is as close to full strength as the Titans have been and still the offense was held without a touchdown for the second time in five games.
- “We left one out there today,” said Mariota. “We can’t turn the ball over as an offense. The defense played great. They’ve played outstanding through the year. We have to do a better job of playing complimentary football.”
- Mariota completed 14 of his 26 attempts for 129 yards and the interception. The ground game was more productive than it had been in recent weeks, with Derrick Henry rushing 11 times for 56 yards, Dion Lewis gaining 34 yards on 12 attempts and Mariota gaining 10 yards on two carries. But the tight ends, the position that has been the most reliable source of production for Tennessee regardless of coaching or front office regime, has been a non-factor. Titans tight ends have been held without a catch in Weeks 4 and 5 consecutively in the absence of Delanie Walker and improvement looks a long ways off.