Titans vs. Patriots Take 2: A Closer Look at Week 1
Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE
After my initial recap, I always like to go back and rewatch the game, because with multiple division contests all played at the same time, I can't dedicate myself to any one of them.
After a second go-around with the Titans and Patriots, here is what I took away.
If this game had a soundtrack, it would be Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack. Usually when one talks about dominating the line of scrimmage, it conjures up images of Larry Csonka ram-rodding over players and big burly linemen tossing defenders around like rag dolls.
The Patriots controlled both lines of scrimmage, but somehow they managed to do it in a dainty, unimposing way. The Pats rang up 162 yards rushing and 4.6 yards a carry, but it was the passing game that provided the most sting. The Titans were so afraid of the New England receivers that the running game had free reign.
New England had their way with Tennessee on the ground and in the air. The had nine more first downs than the Titans (13 by rushing and 12 by passing).
When Tennessee had the ball, things were no better. The Titans managed just 20 yards rushing on 16 carries, and while Chris Johnson will get most of the blame, it's not like any other back looked any better.
When you get plays like this one in which Vince Wilfork drives center Fernando Velasco into the backfield, bad things happen. Johnson barely had time to take the hand-off before being driven into the turf.
The Titans moved the ball in spurts, feigning like they were competitive, but this game wasn't as close as it felt. The Patriots dominated the final three quarters of play, and were never seriously threatened.
If there is anyone who deserves mention for the Titans, it has to be Jared Cook. He had four catches for 64 yards and posted two of the biggest plays of the game. His size was impressive and he used it effectively downfield.
It was a good start to the year for the division's best tight end.
The offensive and defensive fronts have to take the booby prize this week. The Patriots shook off one nice sack by Kamerion Wimbley and gave Tom Brady eons to throw. On most drop-backs, there was no one within a few yards of him. The image of Wimbley bloodying his nose looks great on TV, but for most of the day, he could take a nap in the pocket before releasing. Brady might as well have been conducting a seven-on-seven drill.
On this touchdown pass, he literally had a five-yard bubble around him.
The offensive line was similarly porous. I've been as critical of Johnson's play as anyone, but I can't lay all the blame for this debacle on him. Yes, he looks hesitant. Yes, he runs with his pads high and goes down fast. But he also scarcely got going on most hand-offs before realizing there was no hole to run through.
This game was cut and dry, so there wasn't any one play that stood out as sneaky important. The last moment when the Titans truly seemed in the game came with 14:26 in the second quarter. After driving past midfield, Jake Locker heaved a pass deep toward the end zone for Nate Washington.
Washington didn't do a good job fighting for the pass and Kyle Arrington knocked it up in the air. Tavon Wilson hauled it in, and the threat was snuffed out.
The next time the Titans got the ball across the 50, the score was 21-3 and it was the third quarter.
It was a bad decision, a bad throw and a bad fight all at the same time. It was exactly the kind of "Bad Jake" play the Titans couldn't afford if they hoped to upset New England.
Mike Munchak made a smart call going for it on 4th-and-1 early in the game. The high-percentage call to go for it was not gutsy, but the decision to throw deep was.
There weren't many other notable coaching moments other than the fact that Locker was the right quarterback to lead the team. Hasselbeck had a tough job going in cold, but did nothing in his short stint to demonstrate that Munchak had made the wrong call.
Keep an Eye On
The Titans have to generate more pressure on Phil Rivers than they did on Brady. Rivers possesses uncanny accuracy and loves to pick apart secondaries when given time to throw.
Tennessee will have to blitz more effectively, because apart from Wimbley, there didn't seem to be anyone winning their individual matchup up front. If the line can't beat blockers and get to the quarterback, the heat has to come from another angle.
Obviously, Locker's health will be a big issue going forward. He's going to be playing in a lot of pain, especially if he takes any hits from the left.
It's going to be a long week in Nashville as the Titans scramble to recover from this loss.
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