The theme of today’s article is “Don’t get cocky!”
I’ve chosen this as the theme for two reasons. First, I’m feeling pretty good about my three keys for last week. If you missed that inspired bit of football analysis, you can read it here. It’s almost as if the Titans read my article before the game and fashioned their game plan around my words. Almost. But as we all know, pride comes before the fall so I will do my best to put last week behind me and move on to Indianapolis with the proper mindset. I promise I won’t let success go to my head.
The same needs to be true for the Tennessee Titans. To put it mildly, they had a really good day up in Cleveland on Sunday. That, and the knowledge that they will be facing the Andrew Luck-less Colts on Sunday in Nashville, could be enough to make them believe this game will be easy. It will not be easy. The Colts are a better team than the Browns. They might have less talent, and that is debatable, but they are better coached and more cohesive than Cleveland. The home opener will likely be a hard-fought game between evenly matched opponents.
No more preamble: Here are the Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: Keys to the Game.
Be More Consistent on Offense
The Titans scored 43 points last Sunday. The offense generated 34 of those points. You would think that means the offense was crisp, efficient, and productive all game. You would be wrong. The Titans did a great job of capitalizing on mistakes by the Browns in the second half, but the first half was a different story.
Marcus Mariota was not terribly accurate for the first 30 minutes of the game. He wasn’t bad, as some of his most vocal critics would have you believe, but he did struggle at times. Mariota needs to do a better job of setting his feet and standing tall in the pocket on every throw. He missed a few throws last Sunday that would have blown that game wide open much earlier.
Similarly, the rest of the offense needs to be more in-tune throughout the entire game. Dion Lewis dropped a screen pass that had potential for a big gain on the very first drive by the Titans. The O-line struggled throughout the game; a cleaner pocket and less pressure for Mariota would go a long way for him to feel more comfortable. (He faced pressure on 43.3% of his drop backs according to Pro Football Focus.)
Stop the Run
Last week, the Titans defense lined up in nickel or dime for most of the game. I don’t expect to see this sort of defense every week, though the Titans are uniquely equipped to operate out of it. Marlon Mack had a huge day for the Colts last Sunday, running for 174 yards and 1 TD. If the Titans slow him down that will make the Colts offense one dimensional and I like their chances in that scenario.
The team will need big production from players like Brent Urban, Austin Johnson, DaQuan Jones, Jurrell Casey, Isaiah Mack, and the group of inside linebackers who are a huge strength of the team. They need to play sound, disciplined football, play within the scheme, and force Jacoby Brissett to beat them with his arm.
Change the Game on Special Teams
Last week, the special teams units did exactly what they needed to do. Brett Kern’s punting was directly responsible for the safety. Cairo Santos was clutch with his kicks – even making a 53 yarder. The return and coverage unit were solid for the most part.
I can’t complain about that performance. But, I believe a well-timed special teams play would do wonders for the momentum and energy of the team and the fans. It doesn’t even have to be a score. It could be a blocked field goal or punt. A big return that flips the field. A forced fumble on a return. Anything to get the offense in good scoring position and the crowd jacked up even more.
We know a few things this early into Mike Vrabel’s coaching career. One of those is that he values a strong special teams unit. I am confident these guys can not only do their jobs well but they can actively contribute to a win on Sunday.
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: Keys to the Game Final Thoughts
Those are my keys. Will I do as spectacularly well as I did last week? Probably. Will I brag about it as much as humanly possible? Absolutely. Or, this all blows up in my face and I am left to live alone with my shame.
Let me know what you think the keys to the game are this Sunday. What do the good guys have to do to start the season 2-0?