This season was not exactly what we thought it would be. But while some things did not live up to expectations, overall this was a successful season.
Tennessee Titans 2017 Season Review
Before the season, expectations were high for the Titans. Pro Football Focus ranked the Titans as the third most talented roster in the league before the season, making them a popular pick to win the AFC South. However, from week one, issues were evident.
Up and Down First Third
In the week one game against the Oakland Raiders, the running game was stifled. The exotic smashmouth was shown not to be as effective as it was in 2016. DeMarco Murray, who had run for 1,287 yards in 2016, only ran for 44 on that day and 659 for the season. This season saw a changing of the guard and made it clear that going forward Derrick Henry will be the feature back.
The next two games saw the Titans win convincingly over the Jacksonville Jaguars and then the Seattle Seahawks at home. Those two wins were followed by a blowout loss at the hands of the Houston Texans and a loss to the Miami Dolphins in Miami, albeit without Marcus Mariota; leaving them at 2-3.
Afterwards, the Titans set up a four game winning streak. On Monday Night Football the Titans defeated the Indianapolis Colts 36-22 behind Henry’s 131 yards; which broke an 11 game losing streak to their division rival. The Titans rode into Cleveland and beat the Cleveland Browns in a sloppy game the next week then continued winning at home against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens to move to 6-3.
End of Season Swoon
The next week, on Thursday Night Football Mariota threw four interceptions as the Titans were blown out in Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Steelers 40-17 to drop to 6-4. The next two weeks the Titans defeated the Colts again and then defeated the Texans at home to guarantee nothing lower than a .500 season.
However, over the next three weeks the Titans lost three straight against NFC West opponents. They fell to the Arizona Cardinals 12-7 in a lackluster offensive performance, then 25-23 at San Francisco as Jimmy Garoppolo led the San Francisco 49ers on a last minute drive to net a winning field goal. Then back home the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Titans in week 16 to drop the team to 8-7 and suddenly in danger of missing the playoffs.
Getting Into the Postseason
In week 17, the Titans already knew that they could not win the division as they hosted the Jaguars. It was another ugly game but the Titans pulled through to win 15-10 and lock up a playoff spot. It just remained to be seen where the Titans would go in the wild card round. The Ravens still had the chance to get the five seed and send the Titans to Jacksonville the next week. But Andy Dalton had other ideas. His last minute touchdown in Baltimore knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs and put the Buffalo Bills in as the six seed, bumping the Titans up to the five seed. That sent them to Kansas City for the wild card round.
After an opening drive touchdown by the Chiefs, it looked like it might be a long day for the Titans. Most of the first half looked that way as the Chiefs took a 21-3 lead into the locker room. But a brilliant second half performance by the Titans carried them to a 22-21 victory. Obviously the key play being Mariota’s touchdown pass to himself. It was the first postseason win for the Titans since 2003.
The next week was practically the opposite. The Titans led 7-0 before the New England Patriots reeled off 35 straight points. With the game well out of reach, the Titans got one more score to make it a 35-14 final.
Review of the Team
In the preseason, Mariota was plagued by inaccuracy. Those concerns carried over into the season, where he struggled with 15 interceptions. The talent is still there, as it came out on certain occasions, but he still needs more refining. However, the passing game needs to be altered significantly.
Eric Decker was okay with 31 of his 54 catches moving the chains but the passing game largely did not get off the ground. Taywan Taylor was practically not used as he only had 16 catches for 231 yards and largely it was just throw to Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews when the offense did decide to go to the air (which was not that often). The bottom line was there was no creativity in the passing offense. Now with Matt LaFleur coming in as the offensive coordinator, more of Mariota’s talents shall be used with some creativity in the passing game.
On defense, much like 2016 the run defense was sturdy. They only allowed 3.6 yards per carry, which was fourth best in the league. Jurrell Casey anchored the defensive line with 60 tackles and six sacks while Brian Orakpo, Avery Williamson and Derrick Morgan led the linebackers.
However, the pass defense was a liability. While Kevin Byard led the AFC with eight interceptions, Jonathan Cyprien underachieved after coming over from Jacksonville in free agency. The depth at cornerback was subpar–while Logan Ryan was solid coming over from New England and Adoreé Jackson had his moments as a rookie, after the two of them, things got very dicey. Improving the secondary all around is essential.
While 2017 was not quite what was expected, it was still a step in the right direction. With a new coaching staff, hope will once again be high coming into 2018. Let’s hope those expectations can be realized.