Buck Reising, Tennessee Titans reporter and host of Tackling Music City, provides three observations from the team’s 20-19 Week 7 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
LONDON, U.K. — As the crow flies, the distance from Nashville, Tenn. to London, England is just over 4,100 miles. Sunday’s contest between the Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans at Wembley Stadium was worth every jet-lagged hour it took to get here in entertainment value alone. Here is what stood out in Tennessee’s third loss in as many weeks:
- I Got Two…Points
- Everyone knows how this game ended. After the Titans defense forced a Los Angeles fourth-quarter punt with 4:55 remaining in the game, Tennessee trailed 20-13 with the opportunity to tie it up with a touchdown. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and the offense drove 89 yards in 13 plays on the back of their running game. Mariota found tight end Luke Stocker for a one-yard passing score but coach Mike Vrabel left his offense on the field for a two-point attempt and the win. Mariota missed Tajae Sharpe initially on the first try but a flag on Chargers corner Casey Hayward Jr. bailed them out. Yet, instead of taking the point and playing for overtime, Vrabel again let the offense go for the win. Mariota’s attempt to Taywan Taylor fell incomplete, resulting in the third consecutive loss for Vrabel and his reeling squad.
- “No, it didn’t (work out),” said Vrabel of the self-named “fast and aggressive” approach to Sunday’s finale. “I told the team that we made a decision that we’re going to be aggressive early in the (final) drive. When that drive started, I thought in my mind, that if we scored, when we scored, if there was less than 40 seconds (remaining), we were going to go for two and win the game. If there was 1:30, we were going to kick the extra point and then go play defense. I’ve got a lot of faith in our players. They’d been converting third downs and converting in those situations. Marcus was doing everything we needed him to do, keeping plays alive, so I’m not going to second-guess the call. It just didn’t work out.”
- Go for two-points once? Ballsy and, likely, the correct call. Get a mulligan after you have played the opposition so tightly and beaten the defending Super Bowl champions in overtime only three weeks ago? Take the point and keep the game alive. Vrabel’s belief in his approach is genuine and supported by his locker room, but one cannot help but think that the decision (and the play-calling on both) seemed misguided.
- A Mariota First and a Drought Ended…
Mariota performed exceptionally despite his team taking the “L.” The fourth-year quarterback completed 24 of his 32 attempts for 237 yards and the score to Stocker plus an additional 38 yards rushing on seven attempts and a near touchdown to end the game that was marked short of the plane. But on first-and-goal from the Los Angeles 10-yard line, Mariota tried to fit a pass into tight end Jonnu Smith that was tipped up by Melvin Ingram III and intercepted by Denzel Perryman with :39 remaining in the half.
- “That was a big mistake,” said Mariota. “I should have moved on in my progression. I don’t know who tipped it, he made a great play. It would have been a tight throw anyways and I should have just moved on to my second read then maybe we would have had a shot.”
- The interception was the first of Mariota’s career in the red zone, a remarkable accomplishment about half-way through his fourth year as a pro. It bears noting, though, that the touchdown pass is only the third for Mariota through six weeks (Blaine Gabbert got the start in Week 2 against the Houston Texans) against his five interceptions. NFL scoring has sky-rocketed this season but Tennessee’s offense, even with improvements against L.A., continues to languish behind its peers.
- Anyone who has followed the Titans this season is assuredly familiar with the “MMCNB” acronym that stands for “My Man Catch No Balls” used by the team’s defensive backs. Quarterback Phillip Rivers took Tennessee’s secondary to task, completing passes of 75 (TD), 55 (TD), 26 and 24 yards. Logan Ryan got turned around on the first long touchdown pass and Kendrick Lewis, in the absence of Kenny Vaccaro, looked totally lost on the second.
- “S—, not at all,” said corner Adoree’ Jackson when asked if the MMCNB motto needed tweaking. “We went out there and played ball. At the end of the day, you can look at any secondary, anybody in the league that goes out there. They’re going to give up plays. So, for us, MMCNB is still going to be a motto. Anybody can say what they want to say, I really don’t care. We’re going to go out there and perform, play and not worry about what the outsiders say because, at the end of the day, the people that are on the outside really can’t do what we do out there on the field. So, they can go out there and say whatever they say. MMCNB, that’s what we’re going to ride, that’s what we’re going to do.”
- Not often does one see Jackson irked but the defensiveness in his response Sunday was the closest he has come. Understandable, considering that the caliber of quarterback the Titans faced on Sunday is probably the best they have seen in 2018. Free-agent acquisition Malcolm Butler has been the easiest target for criticism this year, having given up several deep plays that his paycheck suggests he should not. Against the Chargers, however, Butler was not at fault. Rivers had his way with nearly every other starter on the talented unit to the tune of 306 yards on 19 completions.