|Titans RB Chris Johnson coughs up a fumble in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the Vikings. Turnovers have been one of many problems for the Titans early in the season. (AP)|
Though the Tennessee Titans are on pace to shatter an NFL record for points allowed in a season, there are arguably more pressing concerns on the offensive side of the ball after Sunday's 30-7 defeat at Minnesota.
The Titans (1-4) ran just four plays in Vikings' territory in the first three quarters and scored their only touchdown with the game already out of hand. Discounting last week's solid rushing day at Houston, Tennessee has only 169 rushing yards on 2.64 yards per carry. Coach Mike Munchak's team has scored just 88 points on the season, half of which came in a 44-41 win over Detroit. Of the 44 points, three touchdowns were generated by the special teams or defense.
Don't expect the deficiencies to be corrected immediately. The Titans only have three days to prepare for Thursday's game vs. Pittsburgh.
There appears to be a litany of reasons why the offense remained stuck in neutral for most of Sunday's game. It includes: injuries to QB Jake Locker and WR Kenny Britt, a feeble running game, faulty pass protection and timing issues in the passing game. Matt Hasselbeck and his receivers had trouble executing a number of option routes, where their patterns are based on reading the coverages presented by the defense. As a result, Hasselbeck had several incompletions when throwing into double or triple-coverage. Often when Hasselbeck made the right read, his throws still landed out of the reach of his receivers. Facing a nonexistent running attack, the Vikings focused on pressuring Hasselbeck with a conventional four-man rush. RB Chris Johnson had just 24 yards on 15 carries.
Previous game's grade: D
For a defense that had forced just two turnovers entering the week, there were some improvement. The Titans were more aggressive at jumping routes and intercepted Vikings QB Christian Ponder twice. The front-four also created some pressure, which didn't occur a week earlier in Houston. Still, tackling issues persist. A four-yard TD by Vikings WR Percy Harvin in the first quarter underscored the Titans' inability to tackle in space. Tennessee also failed to contain Adrian Peterson, as the Vikings racked up 175 yards on the ground on 5.6 yards per rush. Against the pass, the Titans' zone coverage remains soft. It explains why Tennessee has allowed 181 yards points through five games. The 1981 Baltimore Colts hold the NFL record for points allowed in a season with 533. The Colts allowed 33.3 points per game. This season, the Titans have allowed an average of 36.2.
Previous game's grade: C-
Special Teams: A
Credit special teams coach Alan Lowry for catching the Vikings off guard on a fake punt late in the first quarter. Facing a fourth-and-inches near midfield, Lowry used S Jordan Babineaux and FB Quinn Johnson out of the wildcat formation on a 10-yard run. The Titans ran a max-protection with seven men on the line, including P Brett Kern to the outside of LS Beau Brinkley -- who lined up at left tackle. C Fernando Velasco snapped the ball to Babineaux and set a key block for the safety on a toss to the right. Kern who had three punts inside the 20, ranks sixth in the AFC in punting average (47.7 yards per punt).
Previous game's grade: D-
The Titans employed a conservative gameplan on offense, failing to take a single shot downfield to stretch the defense. Despite Johnson's struggles, Munchak decided against replacing him with backups Javon Ringer or Darius Reynaud. Munchak inexplicably decided against challenging an apparent fumble forced by LB Akeem Ayers in the second quarter. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray was more creative with his blitz packages than in weeks' past, as the Titans recorded two sacks. Ponder, though, avoided several others and finished with 31 rushing yards on three carries.
Previous game's grade: C-
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