Buck Reising, Tennessee Titans reporter and host of Tackling Music City, provides three observations from the team’s Week 13 26-22 victory over the New York Jets.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans (6-6) took the field at Nissan Stadium and looked hopeless throughout the majority of Sunday’s game with their 2018 season hanging in the balance. But with help from the hapless New York Jets (3-9) and a few explosive plays in clutch situations, this team remains in postseason contention. Here is what stood out most in Sunday’s win:
- Third Down, For What?
- Sunday was a comedy of errors for Tennessee in a variety of areas but it was the offense’s inability to convert on third down that plagued this team most. New York’s defense excels in that particular area but the Titans managed to convert only one of their 11 third down attempts.
- It was that lone conversion that proved crucial in deciding the game. Quarterback Marcus Mariota found wide receiver Corey Davis on third-down-and-six for an eleven-yard touchdown pass to put their team up 26-22 with :36 remaining in the game.
- Mariota seemed well aware of their third-down struggles in his post-game press conference but Davis had no clue.
- “I was not aware,” said Davis. “That’s definitely a stat that we don’t like. I mean that’s an ugly stat, but we got the win. We have a lot to clean up moving forward tomorrow. We’ve got a lot to clean up, but winning, it feels good.”
- Davis finished with three catches on seven targets for 42 yards and the game-winner. Mariota completed 20 of his 35 attempts for 282 yards, 2 touchdown passes and a pick. Mariota also lead his team in rushing with 43 yards on four caries that proved pivotal on his team’s final drive.
- Made-For-TV Moments
- Davis got the points, but wide receiver Taywan Taylor did a good deal of the heavy lifting. Taylor caught the two longest Titans offensive plays of the day, both in the fourth quarter, in his first game active since leaving the Week 9 win in Dallas with a foot injury.
- “For (Taylor) to be able to come out there – you know, we missed him early, but Matt (LaFleur) and everybody felt like he could get behind him,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “We needed that. We need that vertical threat, a guy that’s going to get the football. The more that we can have everybody healthy, including Taywan (Taylor), and everybody else, the better. They can’t just sit on you. They can’t just sit on routes and bump you at the top of the route. We have to be able to run by them every now and again.”
- Taylor finished with a career-high 104 receiving yards in the win on three catches.
- Cornerback Malcolm Butler also received a little poetic justice of his own. Butler held up soundly in coverage all afternoon, blew up a huge third-and-two play for a loss of four in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter with his team still trailing and intercepted Josh McCown to seal the game’s result and provide the first Tennessee turnover in their last four outings.
- Flawed…But Not Fatally
- Sunday can be a win and also serve as affirmation of the ails that have plagued this team all season. Vrabel spoke on Friday 11/30 about not beating themselves and his team made every effort Sunday to combat that message. The execution across the board was sloppy for the duration of the first half but improved markedly in the second. But from a brutal Mariota Pick Six to blocked punts and extra points, poor pass protection and penalties a plenty, this was an uphill slog for the Titans of their own making.
- “I give the players all the credit in the world,” said Vrabel. “It wasn’t pretty. We talked about not beating the Titans, and unfortunately, we did our best early on out there to beat the Titans. Then, for the defense to be able to do what they did, continue to get stops, give our offense a chance at the end of the first half to get some points, and then to keep slugging away in the second half. I give the Jets, and Todd (Bowles), and his staff a ton of credit. They played really well. They played really well on special teams, and the defense played really well. Working with a back-up quarterback is never easy in this league.”
- Tennessee was penalized eight times for 75 yards over the course of the contest that led to several third-and-long situations offensively. Vrabel also made the decision to pull left guard Quinton Spain out of the game and shuffle Corey Levin in at center and move center Ben Jones over to the left in Spain’s stead after the group struggled early on yet again, giving up three sacks, but held up over the final stretch. Vrabel cited it as “decisions that are best for the football team where I see fit.”