Notice, I am calling this weekly feature “Monday Morning Reaction.” It should be obvious why. As fans, we tend to overreact to everything that happens on game day. If our team wins, we feel they are unbeatable. If they lose, they are THE WORST TEAM EVER. It’s hard to find a balance. I am going to do my best to make the “Monday Morning Reaction” that balance.
30 point wins don’t happen too often in the NFL, so when they do, fans need to savor them. The Tennessee Titans defeated the Cleveland Browns 43-13, though the game was not quite as lopsided as that score would have you believe. That’s not to say the score is deceptive, or that it shows the Titans were not much better on Sunday than the Browns. The Titans were the better team. They were disciplined and played mistake-free football. The Browns were clowns and could not get out of their own way.
Not to pat myself on the back too much, but I think I nailed the three keys from Friday. The O-line did need help and Arthur Smith clearly made adjustments in the second half to assist them. The defense generated pressure with just the front four and made Baker Mayfield uncomfortable all game. And the team decisively won the turnover battle – 3-0.
The defense deserves all the accolades after this game. They forced three turnovers, and could have had at least two more. They were relentless on defense and even after a poor first drive where they gave up a TD, they were composed. That is the sign of a well-coached team. There were multiple players who had big days but my game ball goes to Cameron Wake who totaled 2.5 sacks and was exactly what this team was missing last season. Huge upgrade from declining Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan.
The Titans offense did what it had to do to win the game. They made plays when they needed to. They left some plays on the field in the first half but corrected that for the most part in the second. It was great to see Delanie Walker back on the field making plays for his team. He is now the franchise all-time leader in touchdowns for Tight Ends. I’m sure Marcus Mariota loved having him back in the lineup.
I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to have to write about Mariota after yesterday’s game. He lead his team to a 43-13 victory, threw three TD’s and no interceptions, and added a few yards on the ground. Surely there wouldn’t be too many complaints about that performance. Evidently, I am very naïve.
Social media (obviously not the best place to find reasoned opinions) is full of Mariota hate. I want to give them a pass but I can’t. The attacks against Marcus are insane, bordering on brain dead. According to these genius analysts, the team would have won by more than 30 with a different QB so that means Mariota is really bad. Or something. I’m not even sure at this point. It’s delusional.
Mariota was not great on Sunday. His final stat line was good. Any time you throw three touchdowns and no interceptions, you’ve probably had a pretty good game. But, he was erratic in the first half and missed some throws I’m sure he would like to have back. He also took at least one sack that ruined great field position for the team – and that sack was completely on him. He got happy feet and indecisive. That is still his biggest flaw in my opinion. But he corrected those things in the second half. If I was handing out grades (I’m not) I would probably grade Mariota’s day as a B minus.
It’s clear that at this point, there are two primary views of Mariota and no one is changing their mind. That’s going to be so fun to deal with this whole season. (That’s my best sarcasm font.)
The fans are bad enough but what really gets me is listening to talk radio and hearing guys who are paid to watch and talk football spewing nonsense on the air. Blaine Bishop could find nothing positive to say about Mariota during the 50 minutes I could listen this morning during my commute. He even said he would like to see Ryan Tannehill start. That comment alone should get him taken off the radio for two weeks.
He also accused Mariota of not going through his progressions and taking off running when his first read was covered. Mariota had three rushing attempts. Three. He wanted Mariota to go through all of his progressions even though the Browns pass rush was getting to him well before he could get to his second or third read. If Mariota had played like Blaine wanted him to, he would have been sacked seven or eight times and the Titans don’t score anywhere near 43 points. Let’s all be sure to not promote Blaine Bishop to any coaching positions any time soon.
All in all, it was a great Week One victory against a team that will look much better this season than they did yesterday. The Browns are a talented team. Their defense has been good for a little while now and the Titans had their hands full with that pass rush. They came away with a big win and an adequate offensive performance against a good unit. The Titans’ defense gets all the awards for this game, though. They were impressive against an incredibly talented offense. Keep that up for the rest of the season and this team will do some damage.
I’ll leave you with my favorite gif of the day. I think it perfectly captures how I felt yesterday watching the game.