Story By: Brady Trapnell
Titans Writer/Reporter

In 2016, the Tennessee Titans said they were going to implement an “exotic smashmouth” attack on offense.

They accomplished that goal. DeMarco Murray was the AFC’s leading rusher, Marcus Mariota had his best season to date and Rishard Matthews caught a career-high nine touchdowns.

Now, in 2017, after a roller coaster offensive start, offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie is attributing the lack of success to “not sneaking up on people anymore.”

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The struggle has been third down efficiency. On third down, the Titans have converted 33.9 percent of the time, which ranks 29th in the league. The only teams lower are the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins.

Sure, other teams may be expecting the Titans to play a similar style of offense, but doesn’t every team in the NFL have to deal with that?

Coach Robiskie gave a few reasons for the offensive inefficiency.

“We obviously have faced some really, really tough defenses early. We’ve faced some really good players and football teams,” Robiskie said. “As we’ve sat down and looked at it, this year we have had more third and nine plus. Last year, we had more of third down and 2, 3, 4 . . . We’ve made some mistakes along the way. We’ve made some mental (mistakes).”

Some would point to inconsistent play-calling across all four quarters of football, as the reason. Here is how Tennessee’s offense has started each game:

vs. Oakland: touchdown, punt, field goal, punt, punt

@ Jacksonville: Three of first four drives went three and out, six first half points.

vs. Seattle: Opening four drives went three and out, nine first half points.

@ Houston: First three drives resulted in an interception, two three and outs, 14 first half points.

@ Miami: 10 of 14 drives in game resulted in a punt.

In the second half of games, we’ve seen a 31-point eruption against the Jaguars and a 24-point performance against the Seahawks. The past two games have been without Mariota at quarterback, which hampers more things than play-calling.

Titans fans have seen plays like this:

Or this…

The difference seems to be the creative play-calling with the Titans on their heels in the second half. Most people would say, “Oh, well the solution is to call plays like the second half. Go faster, push harder.”

But, Coach Robiskie said he would rather finish fast than start strong.

“Everybody is saying you know ‘lets go fast, lets go fast.’ I think I saw a quote from Usain Bolt or something he said, ‘I don’t have the fastest start, but I have the fastest finish’,”Robiskie said on the slow offensive starts. “We want to start fast, but if we don’t then we try not to panic.

“If we start slow, well its part of the game. It’s a tough game. It’s a tough business … Its good to have a fast start, we just want to have a fast finish.”

In games against other high-powered offenses or when the Titans defense has struggled, the Titans have not been able to finish fast. It has left them with three losses.

Two of them came without their starting quarterback, which Robiskie said is the key.

“Without a question Marcus is our best football player . . . Anytime you are out on the football field and you don’t have that guy,” he said. “I mean, you don’t have the threat of him being able to run, the threat of him being able to throw with it and the threat of him operating in a great fashion. Anytime you are without your best player, you are weak. Its a minus for us.”

For the various reasons the Titans have been inconsistent offensively, they’ll need to get back on track Monday night to prevent a third straight loss, and the Indianapolis Colts from winning their 11th straight against the two-tone blue.