Well, I thought there was a chance it wouldn't be pretty, and it indeed wasn't. The Tennessee Titans struggled to move the ball on offense and didn't get many stops on defense. Add them up, and you get a 34-13 loss to the New England Patriots to open the season.
The day started promisingly enough, as Jake Locker had a nice completion to Kendall Wright for a third down conversion on the opening drive. Down in the red zone, pass interference on third down wasn't called and the Titans settled for a Bironas field goal. The lead would last almost 7 minutes, but only because Brandon Lloyd slowed down after Michael Griffin bit badly on a playfake and failed to haul in a sure touchdown. Griffin, whom Bill Belichick declared this week was one of the best safeties in the league, would be beaten for the actual touchdown, a 23-yard pass to Aaron Hernandez.
The next two Titans drive ended with Jake Locker turnovers, the first on a deep shot where Nate Washington failed to beat the coverage and the safety over the top made the pick on a tip. The second was a fumble on a sack in the end zone that would be recovered and returned for a score to put the Pats up 14-3. A six-and-out later, the Pats marched down the field in 12 plays for a 21-3 lead not long before the two minute warning, and the fires of hope were dimmed.
Things would get marginally more interesting after Locker to Washington made it 21-10, but not much more so. The big news from the second half was Jake Locker and Nate Washington were both shaken up on the same play, one where Washington was crunched between two Pats defenders and let go of the ball and Locker made the tackle after the fumble that after replay wasn't. Locker likely could have returned, but the Titans elected to go the rest of the way with Matt Haseelbeck in a non-competitive game.
On a day when the Titans needed their best-paid players to have good games, that didn't happen. Michael Griffin was lousy. Chris Johnson danced. Kamerion Wimbley had one sack on a good play but didn't seem to be a consistent factor. Jason McCourty was ok, but not great. Steve Hutchinson was flagged for holding that negated a 21-yard Locker run on third down. Michael Roos was beat for the sack that forced the fumble. All in all, a pretty ugly day, and with Colin McCarthy shaken up in addition to Locker and Washington, a painful one was well.
Good Recap Tom....that pretty much summed it up...I had a few observations and was interested in your thoughts:
- Locker played pretty good I thought...his passing was accurate and his numbers would have been even better if not for at least a few drops (Nate dropped at least three, even though the one where he got rocked is forgivable). Also, the interception was a bad throw, but if Nate times his jump right that is a TD. Locker needs to protect the ball better, but like you said, that fumble and TD in my opinion was largely on Roos. He got schooled by Jones and then missed a tackle that could have saved the TD. Locker's TD throw was spectacular. Overall I think Locker gets a B in this game.
- The run game is simply a joke. Vince Wilfork owned both Velasco and Harris when he lined up against them. I don't think Hutchinson is really that good of a guard anymore. I also don't see the hype on Stevens...I don't actually think he is that good of a blocker. CJ was getting eaten up in the backfield before he even had a chance to get going. No holes were really opened. If he didn't dance his final numbers would have been 11 rushes for 10 yards. He needs to hit the hole harder, but there really is no hole there. I mean, how many times does he get the ball and there are MULTIPLE defenders in the backfield. I don't think Harris is really an NFL caliber player, Hutchinson is way past his prime, the fullbacks are useless, and the TEs really are not good blockers (Nothing like Algee Crumpler was).
- Kendall Wright and Jared Cook both looked really good. I am excited to see what happens when Kenny Britt gets back.
- The D-Line was owned by a poor Patroits O-Line. Casey did not look himself, but it could have been the elbow injury. I expected a lot more pressure on Brady and when they got it he did not do not throw well. But when Brady has time and no pressure he will just pick a defense apart. I was not impressed with Karl Klug much at all. Mike Martin did not do much either. So the guys in the middle who were supposed to get pressure didn't do it. I don't think Marks coming back changes that. Wimbley did not get the pressure I expected, but he was about the only one who did. In my opinion Derrick Morgan is a bust...he was invisible in the pass rush today. To his credit he did make a couple of nice plays in the run game.
- The run defense is bad...without McCarthy it got worse. Will Witherspoon, who is there to play run D, simply didn't make any impact plays. They continually set the edge in the run game and the tackling was pretty poor too.
- Michale Griffin played horrible. Horrible tackling. Horrible pass defense (the Hernandez TD was totally his fault and I am not sure why he got beat. He seemed to just not move).
- I thought Akeem Ayers played really good and was the one player who stood out to me on the defense. He was all around the ball in pass D and on Run D and even managed a little pressure on the QB when he rushed.
- Any idea why Tommy Campbell did not play on D at all? I don't think Ryan Mouton did not much and he seemed to be really confused pre-snap A LOT! I even saw Coty Sensabaugh in there before Campbell.
Thanks for your thoughts Tom!
@dragak1981 Thanks for the comment, as always.
I'll be writing more about Locker's play. The overturned fumble I don't blame Washington for. The pick in the end zone was a poor decision-Washington was covered and the safety was over. Locker said after the game he shouldn't have thrown the pass. One short incompletion for Washington looked like a real fastball.
The interior OL being "fixed" was nonsense. This was apparent in the offseason and nothing really changed this week. I'm looking forward to taking a look at the all-22 to see just how bad the run blocking really was. CJ does a good job of making fewer yards look available than really are.
I'm not sold the Pats OL is horrible. I thought the run game struggles were probably more about getting outschemed (and beat on the edges by better players) than anything else, though again that's a rewatch thing. I never had expectations for Morgan as a rusher, so I'm not disappointed.
The Campbell thing, I have no idea what's going on, and Jerry Gray pushes my buttons to the point where I'm never quite sure if he really knows what he's doing or not.