At the 2:10 mark of the third quarter of the Browns game in week one I threw my hands up in defeat. As I watched tight end David Njoku do his patent celebration with an excited Baker Mayfield mirroring it close behind, I had all but accepted the Titans defeat and an 0-1 start to the season. Exhaling frustration, I watched as the ticker scoreboard change after the extra point :Titans 15 Browns 13. Even with a two point lead late in the game I all but knew the Titans would lose. It’s almost become a staple. Watching this offense over the past few years teeter on mediocre to just plain horrible has given even the most diehard Titans fan a sort of fan PTSD. In a league where Pat Mahomes is seemingly effortlessly (and sometimes not even looking) tosses 50 touchdown passes in one season, I am hoping that my once favorite quarterback in the NFL can beat his mark of last year…11. Watching the Browns fans energized and the players on the sideline for the Browns I wasn’t sure that I could continue watching. But then, Derrick freaking Henry.
I watched as Derrick Henry glide down the sideline with the likes of linemen and linebackers alike running out of gas behind him. He runs through the endzone and is greeted by his teammates in celebration and an entire stadium in silence. As I settled back into my seat, grinning from ear to ear, eating my words I had something enter me that hadn’t in a while.
I believed in the Titans. I believed in Marcus Mariota.
Well, it was a fun week.
On Sunday, week 2 of the NFL season the Titans had a job to do and they blew it. With a chance to take a choke hold on the division and put their most heated rival down 0-2, they blew it. On a day they would be retiring number 27 and 9 in honor of the greatest Titans this team has ever seen, they blew it. And for a lot of irritated Titans fans, any hope for Marcus Mariota being the guy for us…he blew it.
Now before pitchforks and angry responses come, let me begin by saying this. I love Marcus Mariota. I was excited when we drafted him and I love watching his highlights. I love that he seems to be a big ole nerd, the kind that laughs seriously at dad jokes. I love that in a meaningless preseason game, or a game with a playoff spot on the line, he will throw his body on the line to win. I have two daughters, and I want them to marry Marcus Mariota. I just don’t think he should be the Titans quarterback beyond this season. But before I get to him, let’s examine the game.
This was the first time in years I have watched the Titans play the Colts and thought mid way through the game that we were the better team. In the past against Andrew Luck I would pray during communion for the Titans to have some supernatural game where they all play above their ability and beat the Colts…but they didn’t. Watching this game however it was evident, we were the better team. Our defense was rock solid, holding the Colts with the weapons they have to 19 points. In a league where the Dolphins just had 59 and 43 points dropped on them our defense has held the new high powered Browns offense to 13 points and the rival Colts to 19. So what’s the problem? We have a brilliant special teams, the best punter in the league and for a guy just brought from off his couch Santos has been solid…even with the late miss. We have the King, Derrick Henry punishing linebackers into submission and completely taking over at times. We have added weapons, like Humphries, Corey Davis, the exciting newcomer AJ Brown and the old faithful Delanie Walker. Our defense is stacked, exciting young linebackers and one the more complete secondaries in the NFL. All those things have been precisely built to be a player in not just the AFC South but the entire league. As much as this pains me to say Marcus is holding the team back.
He has been for a few years now, and I can no longer be fooled by insane blocks, crazy stiff arms and exciting scrambles, because frankly, that’s not what he’s here for. He’s here to throw touchdowns and win games, two things he’s struggled with. Another thing he’s struggled with is simply being available, and if you’re like me, every single time he hits the ground in any way you hold your breath. Marcus Mariota has endeared fans with everything he’s done except for good quarterback play. And yes, I remember that one season. What’s odd is that I was still on board with him until his press conference. When asked about the sacks, which I solely blame a majority on him for simply holding the ball too long he replied he has to learn to get rid of the ball as the best play sometimes. It’s his fifth year in the league. He’s played in meaningless games and playoff games, that’s inexcusable at this point. His throwing limits the offense, we either throw a slant on an out either at the line of scrimmage. He can’t consistently hit the deeper routes, and he chooses one route and stays there. As much I love the guy I just can’t watch this talented roster get wasted.
He gets a lot of the blame but not all of it. MikeVrabel couched an odd game, and Arthur Smith after a brilliant showing week one fumbled week two. As I watched Derrick Henry pick up steam late in the third I called it. The Titans would win this game with Eddie George watching from the sideline and Steve McNair from the heavens above. The Titans would win the good ole fashioned way. The way Titans fans watched them do it for years here. Pound the enemy into submission. Run the rock right down their throats and ice the game. It is the Titan way.
Instead, the new age Titans forgot who they were. With the modern day Eddie George in Derrick Henry, the Titans ran him three times with a lead and squandered a chance to expose a Colts defense who didn’t want to tackle him.
I had to actually take a break from writing to cool off.
Alright, with a cooler head let me say this, if I am wrong about Marcus, great. I want to be wrong. Can the Titans rebound and win this Thursday against a dysfunctional Jaguars team, absolutely. Could this simply the worst game Marcus plays this season (and stats don’t dictate a good game)? Sure, let’s hope so.
So what do you think Titans fans?
Help me off the ledge here, comment on this and let’s get a dialogue going.
Catch the Titans in action this Thursday in Jacksonville on the NFL Network at 7:20pm local time.