The Titans had a golden opportunity to separate themselves further in the playoff race today against the Cardinals and couldn’t get it done. More concerns about the team arose after the ugly loss and most of them are valid. Is this team poised for an epic collapse down the stretch? I don’t quite think so, but the pressure to win is now there, and it hasn’t been all season. They’ve had room in the standings to lose a game almost all year long.
It’s impossible to change their entire identity and scheme this late in the season, so here are five small changes the Titans could make to ensure they don’t miss the playoffs this season.
Clean up the Penalties
The Titans were crippled by several holds today. The worst coming on a 40 yard run from Demarco Murray that negated what could have been a touchdown drive. They found themselves in a lot of 2nd and 3rd and longs from holding penalties that are drive killers. It’s something they can fix in a short period of time, and they’ll need to.
Execute on Special Teams
Whether it’s a missed field goal or a missed block on a return, the Titans have the talent to be a good special teams unit. Their coverage has been good, but other aspects of the kicking game have been average at best (minus Brett Kern). Adoree Jackson doesn’t need much space to take one to the house, but he’s not even getting that. If they play good, assignment football and clean up the penalties on the special teams, that could change the game in a big way.
Cut the “Trick Plays”
It’s all well and good when they work, but they’ve failed much more this season than they’ve worked. The fake punt against the Cardinals was awful and the reverses and weird little gadget plays just aren’t getting it done. Just run the offense and let them get in a rhythm.
Run More No Huddle
Even last year, they didn’t run a ton of no-huddle, but when they did it was effective. I’m a believer that the offense shouldn’t be in no-huddle all the time, but Marcus is comfortable in it and it’s a good change of pace. Where has that been this year? They seem to have gone to it much less frequently for some reason.
Let Marcus Loose
Over the past few years, this coaching staff has emphasized to Mariota that taking a sack or throwing the ball away is better than risking an interception or bad play. I’m not so sure this has worked out for Marcus. He has cut down on his fumbles, but he seems to be thinking too much in the pocket. He collapses with the slightest bit of pressure, and it’s turned into a lot of lost yards and hasn’t cut down on his interceptions at all.
Let the receivers go make plays. Let Marcus improvise. It’s possible he’ll make mistakes, but it can’t be worse than what it has been this season. They’re possibly losing out on a lot of big, Russell Wilson type plays because they’re asking Mariota to take a sack and throw away too much. Not to mention the possibility that it has gotten into his head.