2014 mercifully came to an end Sunday for the Tennessee Titans. Sunday the Titans lost their tenth in a row and 14 out of 15. Good riddance might be more apt. The Titans put up a descent fight against the division winning Indianapolis Colts but even they took it easy on them by benching their marquee players at the half. The Colts walked away with a 27-10 win ending the regular season
Look for an all new Titans team next season as coach Ken Wisenhunt pretty much alluded to in his post game conference. Over the coming months there will be a lot of unemployed and traded players as the Titans had their worst season since the early ‘80s when they won a combined six games over a three year stretch. The coach is safe. This is his first year at the helm and he has had success everywhere he’s been as an offensive coordinator and briefly as head coach of the Cardinals where he took them to their first Super Bowl six years ago.
A lot of changes need to come first to the defense. The Titans went from averaging just under 24 points allowed per game to 28 points a game this season. The 2014 Titans defense ranked 27th overall dropping from 14th the season before. Many of the stats are similar between 2013 and 14 with the exception of turnovers. They went from forcing 24 fumbles last season to only seven this year. “The way we have it set up right now, there’s plenty of time to assess that. There’s nothing really you can do until March, so we’ll get a chance to go back and look at it. That’s what you have to do, you can’t make an emotional decision now, you have to go back through it and look at all of the things you have to do better and why they didn’t work and where you can get better,” said Whisenhunt.
Theoretically the offense got slightly better as the quarterback(s) was only sacked 37 tines this season compared to 50 in 2013. The problem is the QB is getting too many clean shots taken at him. Jake Locker, who was playing on borrowed time finished the season on IR. Zach Mettenberger, supposedly the “future” of the franchise also finished the season on the IR after less than a half dozen games. Charlie Whitehurst missed a number of games due to game day injuries. The line still needs a lot of work.
The running game dropped ten places overall this season compared to 2013. It’s been a few years since the running game was feared in the NFL. An aging Chris Johnson was shipped out and a youth movement took over. Bishop Sankey, the rookie out of Washington led the team in rushing with 569 yards but averaged only 3.7 yards a rush. Once again a lot of the trouble with the offense could relate to a weak offensive line that opened very little holes for the running game and was full of holes when protecting the QB.
“When you get to the end of a season as tough as this one, you need to take a little time and go back through it. You know, it was tough. It was tough for our fans. I think one of the things you have to understand is that we are working pretty hard. We are working hard every week, trying to get a win. It hurts. That’s the worst part of this. It hurts when you don’t do that,” said Whisenhunt.
Well, the game against the Colts pretty much mirrored the season. Andrew Luck in his only half of work threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns passed Peyton Manning’s rookie record for passing yards and became only the fourth quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in defeating the Titans. The Colts bounced back soundly after being embarrassed by the Cowboys the week before when they didn’t get into the end zone. Getting back on the right tack was important for Luck and the Colts as they prepare for the off-season. “Win most importantly. That was our goal. It was a good win and I thought we did some good stuff offensively. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect. It’s always tough to get a win on the road but we did some decent things,” he said.
Luck literally got half of his passing yards on one play hitting Reggie Wayne on a 80-yard pitch and catch. “It was a great catch, it was awesome. He contorted his body between two guys and then to keep his feet in bounds and keep on running, he is remarkable. For him to perform like that, it’s special,” he said.
Despite the loss Tennessee stayed close most of the game remaining within one score most of the game before giving up ten unanswered points in the fourth with former Titan Matt Hasselback throwing one final touchdown pass with 3:18 to play.
“Well, OK, not the finish that we wanted from the standpoint of score, but I am happy with the way our guys fought and battled today. Even when things weren’t going great for us they hung in there and they battled and they fought, scrapped and obviously there are a lot of areas that we got to improve in and we are going to work to do that. One thing that has been consistent with our guys is their effort and you know that’s a big thing,” said Whisenhunt.
“We needed to come out and win. Chuck (Pagano) talked about it and I think we all knew it. To get a victory was huge. It really was,” said Luck.
“You know, it’s been a tough year. Last few practices we had during the week, we knew they were the last few this year. As hard as it’s been and I know it’s only my first year here but you make some bonds in the locker room for sure. It’s tough it’s over. You almost want to keep going but it has been tough, no doubt about it,” said Whisenhunt.
– Dave Weinthal
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