Titans have to get Mariota, run game going in Atlanta

Friday, September 27, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 39
By Terry McCormick

Titans vs. Falcons

Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Sunday, Sept. 29, noon


RADIO: 104.5 The Zone

The Titans try to get back on track in Atlanta this week after dropping two consecutive division games to the Colts and Jaguars in a span of five days. Perhaps the extra couple of days of preparation for the Falcons can help fix the ailments. It certainly couldn’t hurt. Here are our four keys for the Titans on Sunday.

First down

Run the ball and stick with it. The Titans might have lost the game versus Indianapolis because they didn’t keep feeding Derrick Henry the ball in the fourth quarter after he had ended the third period with several large gains with the Titans leading 17-13. The Titans need to be in position to give Henry 20-plus carries, which might somewhat offset the porous pass protection.

Second down

Get Marcus Mariota some confidence. Mariota has looked extremely indecisive, panicky and robotic over the past two games. That is entirely different to the quarterback he was his first couple of seasons. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith needs to get Mariota in a rhythm early with some no-huddle, some three-step drops with quick hitches or slants and let him run a bit on designed plays. Anything but that deer-in-the-headlights look against Jacksonville.

Third down

A little pass rush, please. The Titans let Jacoby Brissett out of their grasp several times in Week 2 and barely laid a finger on Gardner Minshew last week. Paging Harold Landry. The 2018 second-round pick has been largely invisible as a pass rusher. Sharif Finch has been OK, and the Titans have to use Cameron Wake for more than a handful of snaps. Otherwise, Matt Ryan will have a field day throwing to Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley.

Fourth down

Protect, protect, protect. Mariota has already been sacked 17 times in three games. A few of those came as a result of holding the ball too long, but the majority have come as a result of poor protection up front. The only positive is at least we haven’t seen Mariota crawl off the field like Zach Mettenberger had to a few years ago.