The expectations for this year were sky-high after making the playoffs and winning a playoff game last season. The Titans escaped the horrible Exotic Smash-Mouth style of football and upgraded to Matt LaFleur’s more creative offense. This offense was supposed to cater to Marcus Mariota’s talents and blend the run and pass games together. New head coach Mike Vrabel was supposed to inject a new sense of toughness and fight in this team. Only one of those things really transpired. Looking at this season in hindsight, the Titans were a couple of inches from a two-seed in the AFC playoffs. Take with that what you will.
Week One – The Game Zeus Never Wanted to End
This game took seven hours and eight minutes to complete. There were three hours and 59 minutes worth of lightning delays. Zeus was clearly watching from Mt. Olympus and wanted more. For the first six hours, this game could be described as a few flashes of lightning, a few rumbles of thunder, and a lot of snoring fans. Jakeem Grant took a kick return 102 yards to the house with 14:04 left in the fourth quarter and blew the game wide open.
Kenny Stills responded by scooting 75 yards for a touchdown on a pass from Ryan Tannehill. Darius Jennings took the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. Then the game turned into a snoozer the rest of the way as the teams exchanged field goals and the Dolphins won 27-20. Special teams and defense won the day for both teams as the offenses showed very little.
Mariota injured his elbow with what would turn into a nerve issue that would linger all season. The Titans also lost tight end Delanie Walker in this game. A rough start highlighted by a record of 0-1.
Week Two – The “How Did The Titans Win That Game?” Game
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 310 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. Blaine Gabbert was just serviceable in this game and did exactly what a backup quarterback should do, manage the game and not lose it. Gabbert finished the game 13/20 for 117 yards and a touchdown. Kevin Byard hit Dane Cruikshank with a 66-yard trick pass for a score.
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This game was a true testament to how creative LaFleur could be with this offense. Being handed a bare cupboard due to injuries and still finding a way to move the ball was truly impressive. The Titans finished with less total yards of offense than Watson had passing and the Titans still won 20-17. A win is a win, no matter how ugly.
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Week Three – A True Testament to Keith Jackson
In the words of the late, great Keith Jackson, this game was a slobber-knocker! Long story short, this game finished with the Titans escaping Jacksonville with a 9-6 win. Now you see why it’s affectionately referred to as a slobber-knocker.
This game featured Gabbert getting hurt and Mariota having to gut out a game where only half of his hand was able to be felt. The Titans finished with 233 yards of offense while the Jaguars finished with 232. Nothing particularly exciting in this game, unless you love kickers.
Derrick Henry led the team in touches again this week and delivered a third straight ho-hum performance. At this point, the offense looked to be in utter disarray and the season was on the verge of spiraling out of control. Still, 2-1 with two wins over division rivals is nice. Without Mariota gutting that game out and making some key plays with his arm and legs, the Titans have zero chance of winning that game.
Week 4 – Bye Eagles Bye!
This game provided the first real look at how special Mariota could have been in LaFleur’s offense. Mariota put the Titans on his back and overcame a 17-3 deficit to shock the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles in the final seconds of overtime, 26-23.
This game was supposed to be about the grand return of Carson Wentz from injury. Instead, Wentz was the second-best quarterback on the field as Mariota completed 30-43 passes for 344 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. Mariota also leads the team in rushing with 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Corey Davis finally gave a regular season glimpse of why he was drafted #5 overall the year before with a dominant performance. Davis finished with nine catches for 161 yards and one touchdown. In fact, Davis’ first NFL regular season touchdown came with five seconds left in overtime to give the Titans the win. Despite the ineptitude of the running game, things finally seemed to be looking up for the Titans. 3-1 never looked and felt so good.
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