In a game many predicted to unwatchable, it pretty much lived up to the “hype”. Two 2-12 teams faced off in Jacksonville and those brave enough to watch witnessed the Jaguars down the visiting Tennessee Titans 21-13. The outcome is bittersweet for both teams. With the win the Jags have won one more game than they won last year and with the loss the Titans are one step closer to the number one pick in the draft. That spot is currently being held by Tampa Bay who finishes the season Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
There will be a lot of auditions taking place Sunday in the Titan season finale against the Colts in Nashville. The only person whose job is safe is coach Ken Whisenhunt. Regardless of what happens Sunday the one area that needs to be overhauled in Tennessee is the offensive line. Despite sprinting to a 10-0 lead Thursday night and throwing for a career high 287 yards, Charlie Whitehurst spent a lot of time on the turf. The Jaguars sacked the Titan signal caller four times and made life miserable for him as well as the running game that really hasn’t had much of a presence all season unless you count whoever was under center running for their life. At some point of the season all three quarterbacks on the roster have been knocked out of a game, missed time and in the case of Jake Locker and Zach Mettenberger were lost for the season.
Thursday’s game pretty much exemplified the Titans’ season. At times Tennessee looked like world-beaters. They started the season with a dominating win over Kansas City who won 11 games last year and are still in contention for the playoffs this season. Since then it’s been nothing but injuries and missed opportunities. The team is currently on a nine game losing streak – their longest since they were the Houston Oilers. During this nine game streak they have been outscored by their opponents an average of 13.1 points. What makes matters worse about that fact is that in five of those games they were either leading at the half or tied. They wilted in the second half. And one of those games – against the Eagles they had pulled within six points in the third quarter before things went awry.
The running game has been one of the weak points for the Titans this season. Rookie running back Bishop Sankey leads the team going into the Colts game with 551 yards and averaging 3.7 yards per carry. The passing game is even more dismal considering the pedigree of the coach. The three QBs have combined for a total of 19 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning have thrown for twice as many touchdowns as the Titans’ QBs combined. Even Geno Smith of the Jets has thrown for more touchdowns than any of the three Titan signal callers having thrown ten while Mettenberger and Locker lead the team with nine apiece.
The Titans combined quarterback rating is 82.2 with Locker being low man on the totem pole at 70.9 and Whitehurst at the top with a 92.2. Mettenberger is conveniently in-between the two. The three have been sacked a total of 46 times going into the last game of the season, an average of over three a game. The three have collectively thrown for 3,659 yards. By comparison Drew Brees along has thrown over 1,000 yards more than the Titans. The Titans rank 13th in passing yardage. Even the dysfunctional Washington Redskins has thrown for almost 500 more yards as a team better than the Titans. Of course the Redskins were one of the teams to beat Tennessee during this nine-game skid.
“We didn’t protect Charlie as well as we should have. I am sure that affected us to some degree. He made some good throws, but he missed some. We didn’t play well enough as a team tonight,” said Whisenhunt.
The defense while it has had a healthy pass rush totaling 30 with one game remaining have fallen victim to the offense that doesn’t score that many points. The Titan defense has given up an average of 29.2 points a game while the offense has averaged only 16.2 a game. That’s almost a two touchdown deficit per game. Tennessee’s lack of offense has caused the defense to be on the field longer and as indicated earlier they are falling apart in the second half of games. Granted, the last two games they have played much better giving up an average of 18.5 points but it’s a moot point when your offense averaged only 12 points during those two games.
Despite all the stats quoted if one looked at the stat sheet Thursday it would have looked as if the Titans won handily. The Titans had more first downs, total yards, were far more efficient on third down but were outgained almost 2:1 with 62 of Jacksonville’s yards coming on a 62 yard touchdown run by Jordan Todman. And for what it’s worth it was relatively a mistake-free game as neither team turned over the ball and there were only ten penalties.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing loss for us. I thought we played well. There are a few things you worry about on a short wee, especially on the road with how you start and it couldn’t have started much better for us. Defensively, we did a nice job on them until the last drive of the first half. A lot of people ask ‘Why do you defer kicks?’ What they did scoring going in and scoring coming out on the first drive that was the turning point of the game. We didn’t do a good enough job of stopping them. Obviously, the big play after we went for it on fourth down hurt us. We have to convert those. It was a disappointing loss,” said Whisenhuunt.
“We have one more week. We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last 15, 16 weeks, keep going out there to practice and trying to make it better. We have to keep working,” said titan nose tackle Sammie Hill about the loss.
The Titans conclude the 2014 season Sunday as they host division leading Indianapolis Sunday at LP Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and will be aired on CBS.
– Dave Weinthal
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