Lions vs. Titans: Exploring Ways for Tennessee to Exploit Detroit
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It simply has to get better.
The first two weeks have gone as poorly as they possibly could for the Tennessee Titans. If there is any silver lining at all, it's that they can't possibly play worse on either side of the football than they already have.
As the Detroit Lions come to Nashville, the Titans know that even one win in the early stretch of the schedule could be the difference between the playoffs and a long, cold winter sitting at home.
But it's too soon to give up on this Titans team. There's still plenty of talent. And while the Lions are difficult opponent, it's not an insurmountable task for Tennessee to get an upset.
Here's the game plan the Titans should employ if they want to steal a win at home.
Last week, I laid out four keys for the Titans to upset the San Diego Chargers. They got it half right on offense. They did abandon the run, passing almost three quarters of the time. The problem was that Jake Locker just wasn't on.
Obviously, the Titans still need Kenny Britt back for the offense to truly click. He only had a handful of snaps in Week 2, and they'll need him on the field and active a lot more often in Week 3.
The Titans had to know what they were getting into with Locker. It's obvious from watching him that he'll have a difficult time regularly sustaining drives. Part of the struggle the Titans have had is that the game has been so far out of reach in both weeks that they couldn't afford to wait for Locker to generate electricity.
The early-season struggles this year were predictable. The Titans have to stick with Locker—not only in terms of playing time, but also in terms of letting him run the offense.
With Britt back and more time together as unit, the team will rebound. This is not one of the worst teams in football, and it won't continue to play like it is for long.
The Lions aren't a good defensive team. They can be had both in the run and pass game. Their only real skill is a potentially elite pass rush. It's true that Ndamukong Suh and company get after the passer, but they are disinterested in the run game.
Even with all that pass rush, Detriot has struggled to cover receivers. But the return of starting corners Chris Houston and Bill Bentley from injuries could bolster the unit.
Offensively, the Titans have to keep honing their identity. The passing game will solve the run game in time.
It's too soon panic. Shelving the run and passing to win are still the keys to victory for this team.
The secondary has been brutal for the Titans, but when you play Tom Brady and Phil Rivers, your safeties are going to wind up looking bad more often than not.
The injury to Colin McCarthy has hurt the Titans dearly. Will Witherspoon has predictably struggled in coverage, and the team has labored against tight ends. That shouldn't kill them against Detroit, as Brandon Pettigrew isn't an elite target.
The Lions feature Calvin Johnson, an outstanding offensive line and the oft-brilliant play of Matt Stafford. The other receivers are pedestrian, and the running game is average at best.
This game will boil down to Titans' ability to keep Johnson under control. Alterraun Verner has played well early on—one of the only Titans who can say that. If he can get some safety help and frustrate Johnson, Stafford may get frustrated and make mistakes.
Overall, this isn't nearly as bad a matchup for the Titans as the Chargers or Patriots posed.
With the pass rush showing signs of life last week, it's reasonable to hope for, if not expect, a more respectable showing from the defense.
Tennessee isn't playing well, and it's difficult to expect the Titans to win over a talented but imbalanced Lions squad.
While the Lions are favored, there's every reason to expect more from the Titans. They have too much talent to get run over for a third straight week.
This will be a hard-fought game, and while the Titans may not prevail, they should put up a strong fight.
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