Titans vs. Falcons: 5 Things We Learned from Atlanta's 23-17 Win
Well, the Titans are back to .500, yet again. It seems that they just can't keep a winning record.
The Falcons had the Titans beaten the whole game, from start to finish, even without Julio Jones. Still, losses are great opportunities to learn about where you really are set and where you need improvement.
So what did we learn about the Titans this week? Here are five things I picked up on.
1. It's All About the Penalties
The Titans are doing pretty well in penalties overall, but the penalties they do get show up way more in losses than in wins.
In this loss, the Titans had 10 penalties for 86 yards. That's more than twice the yardage that the Titans got from rushing. And a lot of those penalties came at critical times, negating big passing plays or runs.
For comparison, against the Colts, the Titans only had three penalties.
When the Titans don't commit penalties, they win games. Discipline has been a problem all season for Tennessee, and it's an area that the Titans must improve in.
Every time a linemen commits a hold, it's like missing a block. Every time a defender grabs a face mask, it's like missing a tackle. It's a stupid way to give up yards and it needs to stop.
2. The Need at Linebacker Is Big
Tackling was poor against the Falcons. It improved when Colin McCarthy came back in to replace a still injured Barrett Ruud, but it was still pretty poor.
The worst tackling was along the edges against the run. Yes, Michael Turner is a human bowling ball, but that doesn't mean he should be able to break three or four tackles before finally being brought down.
Arian Foster did the same thing in Houston's 41-7 rout of the Titans. The Titans are weak against off tackle rushes, pure and simple.
Tennessee is set for the future at strong side and middle linebacker, but the Titans need another outside linebacker to complete the trio. Tackling along the edges must improve for the Titans to be playoff contenders.
3. The Defense Is Young and Inconsistent, but Very Promising
The average age of starting Titans defenders is 25 years old. That's the youngest defensive squad in the league.
Rookies Jurrell Casey and Akeem Ayers have started every game. Rookie Karl Klug has gotten a lot of playing time and will likely just get more, and now Colin McCarthy will presumably keep his starting spot after yet another impressive performance against Atlanta (10 tackles, three for a loss).
Sophomores Derrick Morgan and Alterraun Verner are also getting a lot of playing time. Morgan has been a regular starter and Verner rotates in at corner and nickleback.
Because of this youth, the Titans D makes a lot of mistakes which result in big plays, but they also are showing flashes of being a top level defense. Consistency will come with experience.
4. Chris Johnson Isn't Back Yet
Chris Johnson regressed this week. I expected him to falter, despite how well he did against Carolina, but I did not expect him to play this poorly again.
Chris Johnson got a total of 12 carries, which he turned into 13 rushing yards. Ouch.
Hopefully he's just having a hangover after he had such a successful game against Carolina last week. Even so, that is one monster hangover.
Chris Johnson isn't back to form yet, and I doubt he'll get back to top form by this season's end at all. He'll probably still have an occasional good game when the Titans are playing really poor run defenses, like Indianapolis, but don't expect him to be CJ2K again anytime soon.
5. Jake Locker Is Flashing Some Good Things
As I've watched the season go on, I've gotten more and more frustrated with the Titans for not picking Andy Dalton (who I was sold on). Dalton has been great so far this season, while Locker has been invisible.
Today, however, Locker showed a little bit of what the Titans staff saw in him that made them take him at No. 8 overall.
Locker was nine of 19 for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an 11-yard rush. He did all of this against a very good Atlanta secondary, so there's a lot of hope for his future.
With Hasselbeck injured, Locker may very well start next week against the Buccaneers as well. If Hasselbeck is healthy though, he'll definitely still be the starter.
Locker obviously still has some growing to do. He completed less than half his passes, after all, but he's shown in the preseason and in his limited time on the field that if given enough time to season on the bench, he could be a very good player in the future.