The Tennessee Titans have preached physical smash mouth football all offseason, but only one side of the ball carried that mentality into last Sunday’s season opener.
The Titans’ defense more than held their own against the Minnesota Vikings and their physical smash mouth offense. Adrian Peterson, the reigning NFL rushing champ and future Hall of Famer, was held to just 31 yards and less than two yards per carry.
Tennessee is looking to replicate Minnesota’s identity on offense and worked on it throughout training camp, so the Titans’ defense had weeks of on the job training before last Sunday’s tilt.
But after proving they were up to the smash mouth task last week, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau must now prepare his unit for a completely different kind of offense this week.
The Titans travel to Detroit to face the Lions and their high-powered passing attack. Led by their gun-slinging veteran QB Matthew Stafford, the Lions have finished in the top ten in passing yards four of the last five years.
Last Sunday, without newly retired all-world wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Stafford still completed 31 of his 39 passes for 340 yards…3 touchdowns…and no interceptions in a wild 39-35 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
The stats themselves are impressive, but it is the way that Detroit arrived at those numbers that will keep LeBeau up all night this week.
Tennessee had trouble locating the back when he slipped out for pass plays this preseason, and that plays right into Stafford’s hands.
He targeted both of his running backs five times last Sunday. They both caught all five passes, and they both had receiving touchdowns.
Stafford also did an excellent job of spreading the ball around last week. His two starting receivers were pretty much evenly targeted (Marvin Jones – 10, Golden Tate 7), followed by his tight end with 5, and his backs with 5 a piece.
With no single player to key on, the Titans’ secondary must win their individual matchups a lot more often than not…something they’ve struggled with all summer.
It’s good that Tennessee will have all hands on deck in the secondary for this one, but with that said, it could still be a long afternoon for the defense.
Their best weapon this Sunday is a solid smash mouth performance from their offense…and after last week the offense owes them one.