2017 was a bell curve of a season for the Titans and their fans. Expectations at the start of the season were high and despite the final game in Foxboro, they are even higher for 2018. There were some great performances this season. There were new stars on defense stepping onto the stage like Kevin Byard. After starting seven games his rookie year, he led the league in picks and along with Jurrell Casey represented the defense in the pro bowl. It wasn’t all tackles and interceptions though. Taylor Lewan and Delanie Walker were pro bowlers on offense for the Titans with Walkers two touchdown MVP performance pacing the winning AFC side. I haven’t forgotten you, Brynden Trawick and Brett Kern. The special team pro bowlers rounded out a well-represented Tennessee squad.
There were some forgettable seasons though. Franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota took a step back statistics wise. His first season with more interceptions thrown than touchdowns. I would argue that by the end of the season the Titans belief in themselves and each other was at an all-time high. I would also argue that doesn’t happen unless your team leader is a unifying force. Several Titans on both sides of the ball battled injuries and missed games from injuries all season. Such is the nature of the game of inches.
Game 1 Oakland
The season roared to life with what many thought might be a preview of a playoff game. Like so many things that you anticipate for a long time, this didn’t live up to the hype. The game was a metaphor for the season. In a game that the Titans never led it felt like Tennessee was never able to get over the hump. Or over the goal line. Other than a 10-yard touchdown run by Mariota in the first quarter, three Ryan Succop field goals were all the points Tennessee could put on the board. Raiders 26 Titans 16
Game 2 @ Jacksonville
Jacksonville or “Sacksonville” was coming off a 10-sack performance against the Houston Texans. The Jaguar defense completely suffocated the Texans allowing a measly 203 total yards of offense. The Jaguars defense looked all but impenetrable. It was a defensive slugfest at halftime with the Titans clinging to a 6 – 3 lead. The 24 unanswered points the Titans scored, capped by Mariota’s first touchdown pass of the season put this game away early. Titans 37 Jaguars 16
Game 3 Seattle
NFC contender Seattle was the next visitor to Nashville. Both teams were 1-1. The Seahawks had beaten the 49er’s in a 12-9 battle the week before. So, the 433 total yards that Seattle gained and the 420 total yards they gave up were more than just a little surprising. Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes but it wasn’t enough to overcome Mariota’s two touchdown passes and 115 yards and a touchdown from DeMarco Murray. Even with all the offense on both sides, I thought Murray’s 75-yard touchdown run was the highlight of the game. Murray weaving through what seemed like the entire Seattle defense. Titans 33 Seahawks 27
Game 4 @Houston
Remember way back in week one? Jacksonville recorded 10 sacks and gave up 7 points against this team. How many sacks did Tennessee have in this one? Well, 2 but they didn’t matter since the defense surrendered 57 points. For the second week in a row, an opposing quarterback threw for four touchdowns. In all fairness, Deshaun Watson did that kind of thing to everyone lighting up eventual AFC champion New England for 33 points the week before. Mariota left the game early with a hamstring injury. Texans 57 Titans 14.
Through a tough first quarter of the season featuring games against two division rivals and two playoff teams from last year, the Titans stand at two wins and two losses. In the second quarter of the season, we’ll see if the Titans can beat the injury bug.