Feel free to study the tape. Knock yourself out crunching the numbers.
Personally, I’ll leave that up to the coaches. From where I sit, it’s a pretty simple game. Let me break it down:
If your offense can’t score a touchdown, you’re not going to win many football games in today’s NFL.
That was the case on Sunday when the Titans’ inept offense couldn’t get out of its own way in a 20-10 loss to Seattle in yet another winnable game that got away.
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In the process, the Titans forfeited the momentum and good vibes that came with the 3-1 start. They’re now a .500 football team. And they won’t be a .500 team for long if they can’t find shake themselves out of this offensive funk.
Against Seattle, they couldn’t run and they couldn’t pass. Even when the Seahawks, trailing 10-7 at the time, handed them the ball at the Seattle 39 early in the third quarter, the Titans couldn’t manage so much as a first down.
From that point forward, Seattle found its footing and ultimately won in spite of itself. On a day when the Seahawks were very, very beatable, the Titans didn’t have it in them to take advantage.
“I feel like the momentum has kind of come to a halt the last two weeks with the way we played on offense,” said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. “… I’m not doing enough right now to consistently move the ball.”
Credit Fitzpatrick for his candor. He was out of sync all day, throwing two interceptions and also having a ball slip out of his hands, only to be recovered by a teammate. In his two starts since Jake Locker was knocked out with a hip injury, Fitzpatrick has thrown four interceptions.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm on offense and a lot of that is me,” he said. “I didn’t play well. Really, the last two weeks, I played poorly.”
But the problem is bigger than Fitzpatrick – much bigger. It’s not fair to place too much blame on him. He was brought to Tennessee to back up Jake Locker and serve as his mentor. The timing of Locker’s injury shoved Fitzpatrick into the huddle just when the Titans hit the toughest stretch of games on their schedule.
He struggled against Kansas City last week. He struggled against Seattle on Sunday. And don’t be surprised if he struggles against San Francisco next weekend.
On top of that, he’s overseeing an offense that has become one-dimensional. Against the Chiefs last week, Fitzpatrick led the Titans in rushing via six scrambles for 50 yards. At Seattle, he matched Johnson’s puny 33-yard rushing total.
“It’s real frustrating,” Johnson said. “We’ve been going through this for a couple of weeks now. … We can’t continue to not run the ball. We’ve got too many good players up front, outside and in the backfield not to be able to force our will on people.”
These days, though, opposing defenses are forcing their will on the Titans. On Sunday, the Seahawks loaded up against the run, matched up one-on-one with receivers on the perimeter and completely disarmed the Titans.
“As receivers, it’s kind of disrespectful if you get one-on-one coverage out there,” said Titans wideout Kendall Wright, who had five catches for 69 yards. “We all feel we can beat one man.”
But that’s not happening often enough. And when it does happen, Fitzpatrick is either scrambling out of harm’s way or his throws are sailing off-target.
In retrospect, the game turned on a sequence early in the second half. After Titans nickelback Coty Sensabaugh forced a turnover and Seattle compounded the mistake with a 15-yard personal foul penalty, Tennessee had the ball at the Seahawks 39.
Even if the Titans couldn’t get a touchdown, all they needed was a first down or two to set up a field goal that would have extended their lead.
Instead, here’s what happened:
On first down, Fitzpatrick’s on-target throw to Wright was dropped.
On second down, Johnson ran for two yards.
On third down, Fitzpatrick’s throw toward Wright was behind him and low.
After the ensuing punt, Seattle drove for the tying field goal.
“That was big,” Fitzpatrick said. “You have to be able to take advantage of that.”
What now? There’s a sense that if the Titans can right things in the near term, this season soon will get away from them. Even though the schedule levels out after the open date and Locker should be back at some point in November, the problems that keep popping up on offense can’t be ignored.
“Moving the ball consistently is something we’re lacking,” said offensive guard Andy Levitre. “We’ve got to fix that quick. Otherwise, this season might not be as favorable as we want it to be.
“You say it week to week, but you’ve got to go out there and actually fix it. It doesn’t happen by talking about it.”
For the Titans’ offense, it’s time to put up or shut up.