The Tennessee Titans’ offense slid under the radar during their season high four-game win streak, but the Pittsburgh Steelers just shined a huge light on the elephant in Tennessee’s locker room.
The Titans (6-4) were steamrolled by the Steelers (8-2) 40-17 in a game where the inconsistent play of the offense finally caught up to them.
And it happened under the nationally televised lights of Thursday Night Football.
The Titans’ offensive woes was noticed by those who closely follow the team during their win streak, but stellar play from their defense and special teams unit served as the Band-Aid over the proverbial bullet wound during that span.
Most casual fans skip the box score nowadays…especially if there is no rooting interest outside of fantasy football.
And in doing so, they were unaware that the Titans were winning in spite of their offense…not because of it.
The defense kept the game close when the offense stalled repeatedly and settled for field goals in the first half against Indianapolis. Then sealed the game with a fourth down stop in the closing minutes.
Safety Kevin Byard’s three interceptions and place kicker Ryan Succop’s four field goals secured an overtime victory over the winless Cleveland Browns in a game where the offense failed to score a touchdown.
The multiple times the defense was able to get off the field when the offense failed to generate a first down in the third quarter of the Ravens game. Not to mention Byard’s two interception performance that helped secure another close victory.
And the offense failing to put away a Cincinnati defense after running over 90 plays in the game, once again stalling in the second half before putting together a heroic game-winning touchdown drive in closing seconds.
Inconsistent play, turnovers, and penalties nearly derailed each of Tennessee’s last four wins.
And while you can get away with those types of errors and survive against the offensively challenged Colts, Browns, Ravens, and Bengals, you will get a 40 burger hung on you against an elite team…like the Steelers did Thursday night
Four interceptions by Marcus Mariota, five sacks allowed, a paltry 52 yards rushing, a wide open and uncontested drop in the end zone by their best pass catcher (Delanie Walker), and a plethora of untimely penalties turned a closely contested game in the first half into a second half blowout.
Make no mistake about it. This loss was solely on the offense.
Apologists (and I have been guilty of this) attributed Tennessee’s offensive woes to the health of quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back DeMarco Murray, and wide receiver Corey Davis.
A trio of hamstring injuries caused these important components to miss considerable time this season, or at the very least, play at far less than 100 percent.
But tonight all three were healthy. In fact, Tennessee was the first team all season to have full participation on a Tuesday practice the week of a Thursday night game.
So it wasn’t a gimpy qb. Mariota showed that his hammy was healthy on Tennessee’s first score.
It wasn’t a less than healthy DeMarco, and Davis has played in consecutive games with no setbacks.
So what is it?
Luckily for the Titans, they get a mini bye this weekend to address that side of the ball before they travel to Indianapolis next week…a place that has been a house of horrors for them recently…regardless of who’s under center.
The Titans’ dirty little secret is out of the bag. Every casual NFL fan who watched that game tonight knows that Tennessee’s defense played well enough to pull off the upset.
They also know that the Titans’ offense is their Achilles Heel.
Mariota is resilient. Murray is resilient. Walker is resilient. The offensive line has resiliant personalities.
They were embarrassed on national television. They will hear the chatter over the next ten days and I am sure that it will eat at them.
Personal pride is a great motivator when the world sees you as less than you perceive yourself to be.
All eyes will be on Mariota and the offense when they take on the Colts next Sunday. And human nature suggests they will be itching to get the taste of Thursday’s performance (and the four games that preceded it) out of their mouths.
I expect them to respond with a dominant performance.
This was just a hick up. All of Tennessee’s goals are still within their reach.