The Tennessee Titans, who defeated the Atlanta Falcons (1-3) on Sunday by a score of 24-10, may just be the most confusing team in the NFL.
Ten days after everything went wrong for the Titans in a disastrous Thursday night loss to the Jaguars, they shined against the Falcons in a game that they controlled from start to finish.
Every aspect of the offense, in particular, that was was disappointing against Jacksonville was, amazingly, a strength against Atlanta.
Much Better Mariota
Last week, QB Marcus Mariota managed to make a bad Titans offensive line look worse than they are. His habits of holding the ball for too long, drifting into sacks and detrimentally avoiding risk made the offense stagnant.
Against Atlanta, Mariota looked great.
He sensed pressure well, stepping into the pocket effectively and getting the ball out in time to avoid sacks. He was willing to check the ball down to gain positive yardage when those situations arose.
He delivered several nice throws with anticipation, most notably his second-quarter 23-yard TD pass to WR Corey Davis. Davis ran a corner route on the play, and Mariota got the ball out before Davis broke on the route.
Mariota also ran into a bit of a problem with overcorrection, notching an intentional grounding penalty in the second half for throwing the ball out of bounds from within the pocket to avoid a sack.
There were several other occasions, though, where Mariota legally got rid of the ball out of bounds in the face of pressure.
The change in production and overall appearance for Mariota shows that he made specific changes to areas of his game that required it. To say, though, that Mariota’s problems are now “fixed” would be jumping the gun.
Mariota has had great games in his career before only to follow them up with stinkers. The Titans will hope that won’t be the case this time, but history indicates that it probably will.
Receivers in Control
The Titans’ receiving corps finally produced at a high level, as a whole, on Sunday.
Rookie A.J. Brown exploded in the first half, catching 3 passes for 94 yards and 2 TDs before the start of the third quarter. Brown opened the game’s scoring in the first quarter with a 55-yard catch and run.
Davis, mostly invisible for the Titans through their first three games, caught five passes for 91 yards, including the aforementioned touchdown late in the first half.
Overall, eight different receivers caught passes for the Titans in the game.
The Titans have always had the necessary talent at receiver to have an effective aerial attack, but Mariota’s recent struggles and the offensive line’s frequent inability to pass protect have kept the offense from being able to do so.
O-Line Holding Up
For the first time this season, the Titans offense did not allow a sack on Sunday.
Right tackle Jack Conklin rebounded nicely from a tough game last week, holding Falcons DE Vic Beasley in check.
Rookie guard Nate Davis was active for the first time of his career and split time at RG with Jamil Douglas throughout the game.
With Pro Bowl LT Taylor Lewan set to return next week from his four-game suspension, the Titans should feel a lot better about their offensive line situation now than they did last week.
Mariota said after the game that it should serve as the “blueprint” for the Titans offense moving forward, and he’s right.
Last week, just about everyone did their jobs poorly. This week, everyone did their jobs well.
The difference? A disaster one week and a rousing success the next.
Now at 2-2, the Titans still have the potential to accomplish their season goal of going “from good to great,” but until they string together some successful performances, it’ll continue to just be potential.
Next week, the Titans return home to play the 3-1 Bills who could be without their starting QB, Josh Allen. If that’s the case, a loss from the Titans would be a disappointing one—something that’s been all too common for them under head coach Mike Vrabel.
Consistency is the next step for the Titans. It’s a step they’ve been trying to take for some time, but they’ve repeatedly failed at it.
Until they get there, the Titans will continue to madden their fans.
Cover image: Dale Zanine/USA Today