For all the hype surrounding the Titans, you cannot envision a worse Week 1 performance. It was evident this offense desperately needed more reps together prior to today. And for the defense? The defense is picking up right where they left off in 2020, weak pass rush and even weaker on-ball skills. It’s hard to say which aspect of the game was the most disappointing for Tennessee. Derrick Henry? Julio Jones? The entire defense? My vote would either go for the offensive line or coaching staff, but I’m leaning toward the latter. New Titans’ OC Todd Downing looked completely lost today, DC Shane Bowen is doing a great job replicating last year’s defense and HC Mike Vrabel should (and likely will) take the brunt of all of it. Simply put, this was an utter failure for a team with big hopes in 2021.
Offensively, the game script flipped immediately after a three-and-out by Tennessee to begin the game and a strip-sack in their very next drive. The strip-sack was one of 5 on the day by Chandler Jones and occurred on a play where he was completely unblocked. It’s understandable you want to give your best offensive weapon in Henry touches, but there’s only so many 1st-and-10 runs your allowed before analytics guys deserve the right to roast you. The “establish the run” philosophy has been debunked in recent years, and you should look no further than the Titans’ week one performance to affirm this claim. Ryan Tannehill by virtue of poor play-calling, abysmal offensive line play and inability to feel pressure, took a beating today and did not play up to the standard he’s being held to. Julio Jones looked like a 32-year old wide receiver. Taylor Lewan missed a short stint due to cramping, and his replacement committed multiple false-starts and allows another strip-sack of Tannehill. This offense cannot play this poorly and expect to win anything come January.
Defensively, the Titans were cooked all day long by Kyler Murray and company. Jackrabbit Jenkins had his hands full with DeAndre Hopkins, who hauled in two touchdowns on the day. The Cardinals play more four-WR sets than any other team in the league, and wisely so against a team that is so bad against the pass. The fourth-string WR for Arizona, Christian Kirk, made the most of his opportunities also reeling in two scores. Even running backs Chase Edmonds and James Conner racked up over 100 yards on the ground between the two, with Edmonds adding another 4-43 through the air. My sleeper pick of the game, AJ Green, doesn’t look anything close to the AJ Green of old, and was largely overshadowed by each of the other Cardinals’ wide receivers. Rookie WR Rondale Moore flashed a spark multiple times, it will be fun to see how Kliff Kingsbury uses him throughout the year. Aside from an INT from Kevin Byard and a pair of sacks from Jeffrey Simmons and Harold Landry, it was a painful effort from the Tennessee defense. The Cardinals had several big plays called back due to penalties, or the score and stat column could have been even more lopsided.
The Cardinals are my pick from the NFC to reach the Super Bowl, so I’m not the least surprised with how dominating they were today on both sides of the ball. Where I am in disbelief, is by the lack of energy and execution by Tennessee from start to finish. AJ Brown looked like a Top-5 NFL WR, and kudos to the Titans for dialing up a fourth down trick play to try and jumpstart the offense. But archaic play-calling, inexcusable offensive line play, and lack of chemistry were too much to muster anything more than a pathetic 25-point loss against one of the best teams in the league.
To make things worse, the game went under the line of 51.5 points, directly attributed to a botched extra point by Tennessee. Speaking of which: until further notice, the Titans’ situation at kicker is dead to me.
The Cardinals (1-0) will face the Vikings (0-1) next week in their home opener. The Vikings are coming off a bitter loss in OT to Cincinnati. The Titans (0-1), meanwhile, only see their schedule get more difficult next week in the form of a cross-country trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks (1-0). Seattle went on the road in week one and decisively handled the Titans’ AFC South foe, Indianapolis. Seattle’s offense is just as high-powered as Arizona, so unless we see dramatic improvement in one week from the Tennessee defense, expect another high scoring affair. Will Todd Downing play more aggressively in week two? We can only hope.
Timmy Rever (@CoachRever) is a high school basketball coach in Kansas City, MO and writing hobbyist. He is graduate of Missouri Western State University with a bachelor’s degree in education and a graduate of Northwest Missouri State Univserity with a master’s degree in educational leadership. Currently he is pursuing a specialist degree in superintendency and will begin a Ph.D in educational law in May 2022. A dedicated ‘analyst’, he’s followed the Titans since the inaugural season in 1999 and is humbled to cover the Titans for Music-City Drive In.