The Tennessee Titans were supposed to have at least eight wins after 13 games, but it wasn’t supposed to happen in spite of their offense.
The unit that was supposed to carry this team to their first playoff appearance in almost a decade has been carried by their defense for most of the season, but pulling out close victory after close victory served as the proverbial band-aid over the bullet wound.
At least to the casual fan and national media.
The local media and fan base was not fooled, even while the Titans were winners of six of their last seven games heading into last week’s contest against the Arizona Cardinals.
They knew that Tennessee’s offense was flawed, and they knew the Titans were playing with fire with their win-ugly mentality.
But after the disaster in the desert last Sunday, Vegas isn’t fooled anymore, either.
The Titans are two point underdogs to the 3-10 San Francisco 49ers. That’s right…an 8-5 team that was the third seed in the AFC last week is an underdog to a team that’s battling for one of the top picks in next year’s draft.
Now tell me when was the last time you saw that? I’ll wait…..
Better yet, I’ll digress.
Vegas was taking a direct shot at the Titans’ anemic offense, and specifically, quarterback Marcus Mariota…who’s struggles increased along with the team’s win total.
After each of those ugly wins the coaches and players deflected questions about their offensive woes, and instead pointed to the team’s overall record.
Head coach Mike Mularkey was unapologetic, and I get that. It’s hard to win in the NFL regardless of the opponent. And the Titans haven’t enjoyed this level of success in quite a while.
But last week’s disaster in the desert left those same coaches and players searching for answers, while trying (yet again) to not throw the offense under the bus.
Tennessee managed just 7 points and 65 second-half yards in their worst offensive performance with Mariota under center, and wasted another masterful performance from their defense who allowed just four field goals in a 12-7 loss to the Cardinals last week.
The loss dropped the Titans to second in the AFC South and a game behind the 9-4 Jacksonville Jaguars. It also dropped Tennessee into a crowded field of teams vying for one of the two Wild Card spots…putting their almost guaranteed playoff spot in jeopardy.
Last week’s dreadful performance on offense was not lost on Vegas. They have zero confidence that Mariota and company can turn things around this week.
The national media, taking their cue from Vegas, piled on this week and are now echoing the sentiments that the three win 49ers are a better team right now.
That should be embarrassing to every member of the offense, because they are the sole reason for the newfound lack of confidence in a team that has led or shared the division lead for the majority of the season.
Ironically enough, the underdog tag could be what the offense needs to break out of their slump this week.
Coach Mularkey wouldn’t call out his offense. The defense wouldn’t, either. Someone had to do it, and Vegas had no problem stepping up to the plate.
Now it’s up to Mariota to prove his critics wrong, or prepare for another excruciating week of scrutiny.