The most stunning result of the NFL’s opening weekend might have been Arizona’s 38-13 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans, a team many had billed as a leading contender in the AFC going into the season.
“It sucks when you get your ass kicked,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said afterward.
What does that mean when the Titans come to Seattle for the Seahawks’ home opener Sunday?
At the very least, the Seahawks will see a team that knows it has a lot to prove.
“It is a wake-up call for us,” Titans offensive lineman Rodger Saffold told reporters. “You can’t just show up and win a game, so I am hoping we take this and we come out with our hair on fire next week.”
Seahawks (1-0) vs. Titans (0-1)
Time: 1:25 p.m.
Radio: 710 ESPN Seattle
Betting line: Seahawks are favored by 5.5 points.
Series history: Tennessee leads 10-6. The Titans won the last meeting, 33-27, in Nashville in 2017.
Titans players to watch: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Derrick Henry, WR A.J. Brown, WR Julio Jones, LB Harold Landry.
Three things to know about the Titans this week:
1. An offensive clunker
The Titans had one of the most dangerous offenses in the league in 2020, and they entered this season with what The Athletic described as “the best collection of offensive skill talent in Titans history.”
They have Derrick Henry, who at 6 feet 3 and 247 pounds is one of the most punishing rushers in recent NFL history. He has won back-to-back NFL rushing titles, and rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 TDs last year.
They have A.J. Brown, a close friend and former college teammate of DK Metcalf. Brown, like Metcalf, has emerged as one of the most exciting young receivers in the league.
They have Ryan Tannehill, a veteran QB who led the Titans to a surprising run to the AFC title game in 2019 and then an AFC South title last year.
And this offseason, they added future Hall of Fame receiver Julio Jones in a blockbuster trade with Atlanta.
Jones had a forgettable debut with the Titans on Sunday.
He had just three catches on six targets for 29 yards against Arizona. He was also hit with a costly personal-foul penalty that drew a sharp criticism from Vrabel on Monday.
It was not a good day overall for the Titans offense, which had minus-1 yard total after the first quarter in the first game for new offensive coordinator Todd Downing.
Henry finished with just 58 yards on 17 carries, and the Titans had just 248 yards total — much of that coming in garbage time late.
“We’ve just got to play better,” Henry said afterward. “Looking lackadaisical, just walking around, not playing how we play. Not playing up to the standard we all talk about that we try to do each and every day.”
2. Starting with an apology
Arizona’s Chandler Jones had a monster game against the Titans, finishing with five sacks — yes, five — four tackles for loss, six QB hits and two forced fumbles that set up 14 points for the Cardinals.
Jones abused the Titans’ veteran left tackle, Taylor Lewan, much of the game, prompting Lewan to post an apology on Twitter after the game.
Lewan wrote: “Got my ass kicked today, no way around that. I let the team and the fans down. Thank you @chanjones55 (Jones) for exposing me. It will only force me to get better.”
In Lewan’s defense, Sunday was his first game since returning from a torn ACL suffered last October. But things won’t get much easier for him against a Seattle pass rush that tormented the Colts’ Carson Wentz in the Seahawks’ opening victory Sunday.
3. Another slippery challenge
The Titans couldn’t slow one of the NFC West’s dual-threat quarterbacks.
Now comes another.
Kyler Murray passed for 289 yards and four TDs and rushed for another score, and he kept a number of plays alive with his feet to beat the Titans.
The Titans this week know they will have their hands full with Russell Wilson.
“There’s a reason these guys are great players,” Titans defensive line coach Terrell Williams told The Tennessean on Tuesday. “The Murrays and Russell Wilsons and Lamar Jacksons — you can be in a perfect spot and they find a way to make you miss.
“… You look at trying to guard Michael Jordan, I’m sure everybody would put guys in the perfect place to stop them, but great players are sometimes able to make those plays.”