NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans embarrassed themselves on Sunday. The Arizona Cardinals came into Nissan Stadium amid all the offseason hype and smacked the home team around for 60 minutes.
The 38-13 reality check wasn’t even indicative of how lopsided the game actually felt.
A new season means renewed hope. Gone were the concerns of a historically bad defense. Julio Jones is more than enough to mitigate the personnel losses on offense and Arthur Smith going to Atlanta, right? Surely, Tennessee’s kicking situation would have a resolution after three seasons trying to rectify it, yes?
Where to even begin…
Titans offense falls flat on its face
It is easy to recall the good times with the Titans offense and not succumb to recency bias.
The unit that scored 30.7 points per game in 2020 went out with a whimper in a 20-13 wildcard loss to the Baltimore Ravens. It was their lowest scoring total all season. Against Arizona, it was everything quarterback Ryan Tannehill and company could do to match that output.
“We didn’t come out and execute in any facet on offense,” Tannehill said. “Missed opportunities, turnovers, the whole thing. We didn’t execute the way we expect to and the way we need to to win football games.”
Understatement of the century.
Protection was non-existent for the Titans. The Cardinals sacked Tannehill six times, stripped him of the ball twice and recovered the fumbles. Chandler Jones, alone, had five quarterback takedowns that tied a franchise record. Derrick Henry averaged a paltry 3.4 yards per cary (17 for 58) behind the struggling line.
A.J. Brown did not get a target until 10:59 in the second quarter. Julio Jones finished with three catches for 29 yards.
“I feel great about me and (Tannehill)’s situation,” Jones said on Friday prior to facing Arizona. “That’s what practice is for. We’ve had enough time out here on the playing field out here at practice to get some work in.”
Realistically, that work consisted of four days (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) the week of their season opener. Not enough for Tennessee’s new pieces to fall into place.
Cardinals took advantage of Tennessee’s discombobulation
Tennessee’s situation with the COVID list and managing the health of veteran players is well documented.
Fairly or not, that time missed together sorely affected a team that has plenty of talent, but clearly lacked chemistry. Penalties (7-57), miscues, bad situational football and turnovers (2 lost fumbles, 1 INT) told the story. New offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s game plan looked misguided. Shane Bowen’s defense still allowed its opponent to convert 53.8% of its third downs.
Not to mention the five total touchdowns that Kyler Murray accounted for.
“We all have offseason objectives,” said coach Mike Vrabel. “This is what happens in the National Football League when you don’t play well. Told the team, told (media), told everybody, we’ll find out what our culture looks like this week and when we wake up in the morning for work. Guys will have to figure out how to try and win a football game.”
It is, in fact, just one game. No grand proclamations can be made about the Titans season based off of one result.
What makes Sunday’s failure so much more egregious is a near-capacity crowd showed up in support. They left booing, frustrated and disillusioned with a bill of goods that had been sold to them since general manager Jon Robinson traded for Jones this past June.
Tennessee squandered a golden opportunity to not be the “same, old Titans.”
Speaking of disappointment…the Titans kicking game
Here we are again.
Just when Tennessee thought they had landed on a kicking solution, Sam Ficken went to injured reserve Saturday. Whether his name ends up permanently on the Titans kicker graveyard that has persisted since 2019 remains to be seen.
The team signed Michael Badgley to the active roster. Badgley had made 52 of 65 field-goal attempts and 82 of 86 extra points with the Chargers in his career and is perfect (30-30) on attempts inside of 40 yards.
In debuting in Tennessee, Badgley missed his first extra point and botched his one field-goal attempt from 46 yards wide left. Eight kickers in now two full seasons and one game of 2021 is enough to make one start believing in special teams curses.
Of all the disappointments on Sunday, at least the kicker is one fans are already numb to.
Featured Image: USA TODAY Sports.