- The Titans loss to the Cardinals was a costly one. They fell to 8-5 and out of first place in the AFC South. The Cardinals improved to 6-7. It was a low scoring affair due in part to both teams having offensive execution issues and mutual strong defensive efforts. The Titans didn’t look like a team that had come into the game having won six of the last seven games to that point.
- Up 7-3, the Titans attempted a fake punt in the third quarter. It appeared that they had gained enough yardage for a first down. However, the Cardinals successfully challenged the spot and the initial spot was overturned. The Cardinals drove down and kicked a field goal to make it 7-6 in favor of the Titans.
- The Titans don’t use play action enough. The play action helps Mariota as he can freeze a defense with the threat of a run. The Titans threat is legitimate too, with running backs Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray generally running strong.
- On the final play of the game, Mariota targeted cornerback Adoree’ Jackson who was playing wide receiver on the play. He had never practiced the play before. Mariota had thrown three straight incompletions previously and was not in any rhythm. To expect him to get the ball to an inexperienced receiver was asking too much.
- Titans: The Titans recognized that they needed to get more touches earlier for Derrick Henry. The running game was held in check partially due to Mariota being unable to throw the ball down field and the Cardinals loading up to stack the box to stop the run. However they had success in previous games getting the ball to Henry.
- Cardinals: Arizona won this game with lesser accomplished personnel. Arizona had to dig into the bench to get key contributions from young players such as rookie Chad Williams and running backs Kerwynn Williams and Elijhaa Penny.
- It is safe to say that neither team successfully executed on their offensive game plans.
- The Titans teed off on a Cardinals offensive line and sacked Blaine Gabbert seven times and disrupted his rhythm early. Similarly, Arizona committed to stopping the Titans running game and they did, holding them to 65 yards rushing.
- Arizona was able to disrupt Mariota and fore him into two interceptions in the second half. Tennessee struggled in the second half and only had 62 yards of total offense and didn’t score once. A big reason for this was that the Cardinals were blitzing their safeties frequently.
- Arizona’s offense was non-existent in the first half, but improved in the second half on the power of the ground game. They gained 194 total yards in the second half, 107 of them on the ground.
- Arizona has to be commended for not getting desperate when down in the game. They didn’t force anything or take wild chances. They knew field position would be important and that field goals could win the game.
- Late in the game, the Cardinals were unable to run out the clock. Despite their inability to do so, Cardinals QB Blaine Gabbert forced Tennessee to use their last time timeout late by scrambling and falling in bounds. Using this timeout would limit what the Titans were able to do on offense when they got the ball back.
What We Liked
- The Titans used tempo at the end of the first quarter to extend a drive. The Titans knew that Arizona would have a hard time making substitutions. Arizona was flagged for having too many men on field and the Titans extended their drive.
- Tennessee tried a fake punt (a direct snap) from their own 35-yard line with under eight minutes left in the third quarter and up 7-3. They were initially given a favorable spot and a first down. Bruce Arians challenged the spot and won the challenge. The Cardinals took over and drove down the field and kicked a 23-yard field goal to make it a 7-6 game.
- Arizona kicks field goals to win game. We have a saying at HCR… “Field goal points count the same as touchdown points”. The aesthetics may not be there with a field goal, but a win is a win is a win. That’s all that matters.
What We Didn’t Like
- The Titans fake punt call. There was no need for it. In a game where points were at a premium, it didn’t make sense to give up this type of field position.
- The Titans put too much on Mariota’s shoulders. As we have mentioned before in previous weeks, he’s simply asked to do too much and drive the ball down field. He has thrown 10 interceptions in the last six games and currently has 14 for the season. There are also too many incompletes (16-31, 159 yards) this is just too many offensive plays that result in no yards. Mariota is also asked to do too much with his legs and we believe this impacts his ability to throw the ball down field. In Sunday’s game, he hurt his knee sliding for a first down. We are sure this prevented him from making plays in the passing game too.