Titans vs. Raiders: Takeaways from Tennessee's 23-19 Win over Oakland
It came down to the wire, but Ryan Fitzpatrick managed to lead the Tennessee Titans downfield for a game-winning drive that ended in a touchdown throw to Kendall Wright.
The offense sputtered at first, and the defense made some mistakes, but in the end, they came away with a win over the Oakland Raiders and currently hold the sixth seed in the playoff hunt.
Here are some takeaways from the 23-19 win.
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick Can Win Games
Despite his usually strong numbers, the Titans had yet to win a game when Fitzpatrick took the majority of the snaps. That changed against the Raiders.
Not only did they win, they won on their last drive with only 10 seconds remaining in the game. That is what we call a game-winning drive.
Fitzpatrick isn't exactly known for his clutch performances, but it's nice to see that, in the right situation, he can still come through when the team needs him to. They'll certainly be needing him a lot more in the coming weeks.
2. Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter Are Going to Be Offensive Mainstays
Wright has been the best receiver on the team all season, but Justin Hunter only showed flashes of greatness before the game against the Raiders.
He had a rookie moment where he lost his cool against a Raiders defender and drew a penalty, but other than that, he was fantastic. He caught all six of the passes thrown his way for 109 yards and a touchdown.
The touchdown came on a long pass where Hunter made one Raider miss, then turned on the jets to get to the end zone untouched.
Wright had a pretty good day himself, catching six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown was the one that won the game for the Titans, by the way.
With two very talented and very young receivers making big splashes, the Titans will be set at receiver for a while.
3. The Offensive Line Is Having Trouble
Offensive line play against the Raiders was awful. The running game was ineffective, Fitzpatrick was under pressure all day and there were way too many penalties caused by offensive linemen.
First, there was the running game. It's tough to fault the offensive line too much for this one, as the Raiders seemed to focus on Johnson most of the time. When he got the ball, the box was stacked.
However, the pressure that the Raiders managed to generate was unreal. Fitzpatrick was hurried more than a dozen times and hit five times. The Raiders are not the St. Louis Rams or the Kansas City Chiefs; they aren't sporting one of the top pass rushes in the league.
They simply should not have been getting to Fitzpatrick that often.
Lastly, there were the penalties. The offensive line was responsible for most of the 10 penalties called against the Titans, six of which were holding calls. That has to change going forward.
4. Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers Are Still Playmakers
I've been somewhat baffled by Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown lately. Ayers was one of the best defensive players on the team for his first two seasons on the team, but he's been quiet this year.
Brown was a sensation as a rookie, and started this season strong before suddenly quieting down himself.
Against the Raiders, both of them were on. Brown came away with an interception, a tackle for loss, two defended passes and eight tackles.
Ayers made an impact almost as big, with four solo tackles, a tackle for loss and a deflected pass that should have been intercepted, but Bernard Pollard couldn't hold onto it.
With middle linebacker play being shaky at best, it's nice to see the other two linebackers play as well as everyone knows they're able to.
5. The Defense Needs Blitzes to Maintain Pressure
Normally, the Titans generate pressure from just their front four, especially Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan. However, against the Raiders, there was almost none.
Matt McGloin wasn't sacked or even hit by the Titans, and though he was hurried occasionally, it wasn't very often.
This is even more unusual when you realize that the Raiders don't exactly have a top-five offensive line. So what was the problem?
I noticed that there were very few linebacker, corner or safety blitzes called in that game. Whether Jerry Gray and Gregg Williams thought they were unnecessary against McGloin or that they assumed the front four would generate enough pressure, I don't know, but it didn't happen.
It looks like that, even with a great front four like the Titans have, they'll need to dial up the occasional blitz to keep opposing quarterbacks under pressure.
6. Special Teams Are Still a Liability
Special teams play has been a problem all season for the Titans, and that trend showed no sign of changing against the Raiders. Penalties, poor tackling and near-disasters were the story of the game.
Devon Wylie fumbled a punt but managed to recover it before it could hurt the Titans badly. He had a fumble against the Indianapolis Colts which did result in disaster, so it's good for his career that this one didn't get away from him.
Then there was the blocked punt. Just before halftime, the Raiders managed to stop one of Kern's punts. The Titans recovered it, but the Raiders still came away with the ball because it turned over on downs.
The Raiders offense then marched down the field in a few seconds, and were it not for Sebastian Janikowski missing what should have been an easy kick for him, the Raiders could have gone up by six before the half.
In both mistakes, the Titans got lucky, but they can't depend on luck forever.
7. Playoff Update
If the season were to end today, the Titans would be the sixth seed in the AFC. Unfortunately, the season doesn't end this week, and the Titans have several tough opponents still on their schedule.
The Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are all sitting at five wins, and one of them is likely to come away with at least four more before the season ends.
It's certainly possible that none of the other contenders win more than eight games, but even then, the Titans have to beat two teams that already beat them once and upset one of their tougher opponents.
It's still possible that the Titans will make it into the playoffs, but that possibility is looking more and more remote.