VOL. 41 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 8, 2017
Titans can't keep up with Raiders in 26-16 opening loss
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Titans missed their big opportunity to show the NFL they're ready to play with the league's big boys.
Oh sure, Tennessee tied up the Raiders twice, the last at 10-10, but Oakland won 26-16 Sunday with the Titans doing some of the damage to themselves.
They lost an onside kick to open the season, missed tackles on both defense and special teams, untimely penalties and settled for two field goals instead of touchdowns.
"Very disappointing," Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker said. "We don't want to lose at home. We talk about protecting our house. We didn't do that."
The Raiders are coming off a 12-4 season that ended in the playoffs when Derek Carr was out with a broken right leg.
The Titans made a six-win improvement in 2016 for a 9-7 record, and this game offered a chance to show just how much they had improved as a favorite to win the AFC South.
Coach Mike Mularkey certainly tried to make a statement from the opening kick, having Ryan Succop handle the first onside kick in the NFL since 2009 to open a season. Yet the Raiders recovered easily, and Carr hit Amari Cooper for an 8-yard TD pass four plays later.
Mularkey refused to second-guess himself either.
"We could have had at the ball at the 50-yard line with a pretty potent offense if we execute the onside kick," Mularkey said.
Asked about why the Titans didn't execute, Mularkey declined to go into what went wrong.
"They got it," Mularkey said. "I'm not going to go into the who or why, that's none of your business."
The Raiders exposed what had been a couple of strengths of Tennessee's last season.
The Titans led the NFL in scoring touchdowns inside opponents' 20 at a rate of 72 percent. Twice they got inside the Raiders 10, but settled for field goals.
The second time, Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray, who led the AFC with 1,287 yards rushing last season, was stopped for a 1-yard loss on third-and-2 at the Oakland 7 in the third quarter.
"That was probably the turning point of the game was the fact we couldn't score touchdowns in there," quarterback Marcus Mariota said.
The Tennessee defense ranked second against the run last season, but the Titans could not stop Marshawn Lynch and the Raiders in the fourth quarter. Lynch ran 10 times in the fourth, six of those on a drive that featured Lynch blasting over Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey.
Casey said they knew that the Raiders would feed the ball to Lynch to run out as much time as possible, yet a defense that gave up just 88.3 yards rushing per game last season couldn't make the stop. Lynch finished with 76 yards on 18 carries with the Raiders running for 109 yards.
"Super tough, especially at home knowing we want to control the home-field advantage as much as possible and make sure no one will come in here and put points on the board," Casey said. "Definitely a shot to the heart and definitely a shot to myself and my pride."
The Titans insist their confidence is not shaken by a third straight loss to Oakland in as many seasons, this by the largest margin yet.
Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan said they know they need to finish drives in the end zone. Safety Kevin Byard said they know they need to tackle better, which can be corrected.
Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo insisted he was disappointed, but not worried with all the playmakers on the roster.
"It's all about winning divisions," Orakpo said. "Definitely disappointed we lost to the Raiders. They're a great team. They added some weapons as you can see. Hopefully, we meet again down the road."
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL .
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker