Setting the Stage:
Titans are 8 & 4, won 6 of last 7 games and tied for 1st in the AFC south. Cards are 5 & 7 and a hair-breadth away from being out of contention. (Note - Cards are still trying to figure out "who they are." By the time they do figure it out, the playoffs will be over). Tennessee profiles statistically as a middle of the pack team (#22 on offense/#11 on defense) that just finds ways to win.
Tenn's Last Game
They beat Houston 24 - 13. It was a conservative war of attrition: Game was tied 10 - 10 at halftime, but Tenn posted 7-points in each of the 3rd and 4th quarters while holding the Texans to a single 4Q field goal to win it. Run game, penalties, a couple of home run plays. sacks and turnovers were the difference-makers.
Texans received. TB on KO. 3 & out. Punt (net fumble) downed at the Ten 41. Hou moved to the Titan 4. TD pass was reviewed and reversed. Hou settled for a 23-yd Fairbairn FG. Texans 3 - Titans 0.
TB on KO. Tenn managed to reach the Hou 22, but settled for a 40 yd Succop FG attempt (which went wide right). Hou took over on its own 30 and (due in part to a holding call) was foreced to punt from its own 36. Punt (net blocking penalty) was downed at the Tenn 22. Four plays after Murray ran for +14 yds, the Titans reached their 49 as the quarter ended.
First Quarter Score: Houston 3 - Tenn 0.
Titan drive salled at the Hou 43. Punt was fair caught at the Hou 13. A 57-yd Savage to B Miller pass helped set up a 4-yd Savage to Anderson TD. Houston 10 - Tenn 0.
10:40 TB on KO. Mariota put together a 10 play (6:22) TD drive capped by a 9-yd Mariota scramble around LE. Houston 10 - Tenn 7.
TB on KO. Lots of nickel and dime stuff by Tenn on offense (Yards Gained Sequence: +2, +6, +4, +5, -3, +12, Inc., +3, +13, +24 run by Henry). Field Goal: Good from 43. Houston 10 - Tenn. 3.
Touchback and knee to end the quarter.
1st Half Score: Houston 10 - Tenn. 10
Tenn received - TB on KO. 3 & out. Punt returned to Hou 26. Houston's 15-play drive ended in another failed Fairbairn FG attempt - this one from 28 yds. Tenn took over on its own 20. and put together a 10-play (5:17) TD drive ending in a Mariota to D Walker 24-yd TD play. Tenn 17 - Houston 10
TB on KO. Miller ran up the middle for 11 yds to end the quarter.
Third Quarter Score: Tenn 17 - Houston 10
Hou ball at its own 36. They were unable to get past their own 44. Lechler's punt was O-O-B at the Ten 19. Desite a pass interference call on Houston, the Titans couldn't get past their own 37. Kern's punt was returned by Texans to their own 19. Houston was able to mount a 12-play drive ending in a 42-yd Fairbairn FG. Tenn. 17 - Houston 13
TB on KO. Tenn went 3 & out. Punt returned to Hou 28. 2:47 left to play. An 8-play Houston drive (featuring 3-straight false start penalties on Allen) ended when Savage's deep right pass for Hopkins was intercepted by Sims for a TB. Titans took over on their own 20. On the 3rd play from scrimmage, Henry ran around LE for a 75-yd TD. Tenn. 24 - Houston 13
Final Score: Tenn 24- Houston 13
Key Game Stats
Titan Stats to Date
Passing -Mariota was 15 of 23 - 150 yds, 1 TD'a and no interceptions. (Savage: 31 of 49 for 365 yds, 1 TD, 1Int).
Rushing -- Henry ran for 109 yds on 22 carries. (Murray carried 11 times for 66 yds. (Houston runners gained 53 yds on 17 carries)
Receiving - D Walker caught 5 passes for 63 yards. Decker caught 3 for 27 yds
Tackles - Byard and Woodyard led with 9 apiece. Cyprian, Ryan and Williiamson each had 6
Sacks - 4. D Jones had 1.5...Orapko and A Johnson 1 apiece and Morgan 0.5
3rd Down Conversions -Tn converted 5 of 11 (45%) Hou converted 8 of 16.
Rushing Avg - Tn averaged 6.9 ypc rushing. (Hou gave up 5.1 ypc)
Net Punting Average - Tn was 42.5. (vs. 32.7 for Hou).
Penalties - Tn was penalized 7 times (Hou was flagged11 times)
Red Zone Efficiency - Tn was 1/1 = 100% i (vs. 1/3 = 33% for Hou).
Turnover Ratio: Even. Savage threw one pick/ Mariota threw zero. (Tn lost 1 fumble/Hou lost zero).
First Downs - LA 222 / Opponents 197
3rd Down Conversions - LA 66/151 / Opponents 58/154
Passing YPA- LA 5.9 / Opponents 5.4
Rushing YPC - LA 4.1/ Opponents 4.7
Sacks - LA 31 / Opponents 19
Field Goals - LA 32/34/ Opponents 14/23
Time of Possession - LA 30:23 / Opponents 29:37
Turnover Ratio +5
Titans in a Thumbnail
Mariota can beat you with his legs. The Titans can beat you up with their RB tandem of Murray and Henry. Top receiver by far is their TE Delanie Walker (but you'd better also watch Decker). . Byard is a playmaker at SS. Titans can put pressure on a QB from the outside (Morgan and Orapko. Woodyard is their leading tackler - 33% more tackles than the next guy on the Tenn roster.
Key Player Stats
Mariota (#36 Ranking) : 10 TD's...12 Int...2,423 Yds...80.4 QBR
Henry:(#20 Ranking): 125 for 629 yds...5.0 YPC...4 TD's.
Murray (#36 Ranking) 140 for 518 yds...3.7 YPC...5 TD's.
Mathews (#38 Ranking): 41 for 626, 15.3 YPR. 3TD
Decker (#46 Ranking): 46 for 597. 13.0 YPR. 3TD
D Walker TE (# 3 Ranking): 58 for 676....11.7 YPR...9 TD's.
J Smith TE (#41 Ranking): 13 die 127....9.8 YPR../.2 TDs.
Field Goals -
Succop (#4T): 26/31...52 Long
Kern (#15): Net Avg: 45.4
A Jackson (#17 Ranking): 19 for 39...20.7 YPR
Kickoff Returns -
Decker (#38 Ranking): 1 for 22
Woodyard (99)...Williamson (68). Byard (67). ..A Jackson (54). Ryan (52))
Sacks - (Tenn 29 (Opponents 7)
D Morgan (7.5)...Orapko (5.0)....DQ Jones...Woodyard ()....Casey ()
Interceptions - Tenn 10 ( Opponents' 14)
Byard (6)...4 others with 1 apiece.
WR1..18 Matthews...13 Taylor.............14 Weems
TE......82 D Walker....89 Supernaw......81 J Smith
LT.......77 Lewan.......71 D Kelly
LG .67 Spain.........61 Levin
OC 60 B Joes.......,62 Schwenke
RT 78 Conklin
WR2 84 C Davis......87 Decker.........xx Jennings
QB ..08 Mariota......16 Cassel.......... 03 Weeden
FB ...45 Fowler
RB....29 Murray.......22 Henry............32 Fluellen
LDE 97 Mauro..........72 Pierre..............94 X Williams
DT 98 Peters .........95 Gunter
DT 92 Rucker.........90 Nkemdiche
SLB 55 C Jones........54 Albright
ILB 20 Bucannon....58 Wright............50 G Martin
ILB 56 Dansby........57 Bynes
WLB 43 Reddick.......96 K Martin
LCB 21 Peterson.....26 B Williams
RCB 25 T Williams...28 Bethel.
SS 36 Baker..........30 Ford
FS 32 Mathieu ......41 Bethea
Matchup: Titan Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Mariota comes across as a very good game manager who can also beat you with his feet. With perhaps the exception of Decker, the Tenn receivers as a group don't seem all that dominating. Leading receiving weapon is actually their TE (D Walker) who can carry the team on its back if and when necessary.
The injury gods have eaten their way into the Cardinal secondary. At corner, Peterson is still our shutdown guy. The other CB spot is kind of a musical chairs deal led by T Wiliams. At safey, its pretty much Baker and Bethea with Mathieu used mainly as Bettcher's key chess-piece. When the Badger is at the top of his game, he can be an outcome-influencer. Since returning from an old injury, he's a steop slow covering fast, slot guys on crossing routes.
Biggest challenge will be "who'll cover D Walker?" That's a pretty interesting question if the iffy Bucannon can't go. (Note - Bynes can only cover one guy at a time - will it be the RB? Or the TE)? More likely, the Cards will put 2 guys on Walker and take their chances with other Tenn receivers (other thanDecker).
Key Matchups: Walker vs. Bucannon or Bethea. Peterson vs. Decker
Matchup: Titan Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Titans split RB burden 50-50- between Murray and Henry (Henry - who scored late last week on a 75 scamper off LE - is said to have 4th fastest burst - 21.61 mph - of any RB in the NFL). Card run-stoppers are pretty good when they take opposing ground games seriously and commit themselves to stopping the the run.
Titans use a FB. Cards may be without Bucannon at ILB/$LB. If he can't go, the Cards will probably move Bynes next to Dansby in base sets.
Key Matchups: Murray or Henry vs.Bucannon or Bynes. Fowler vs. Baker. Titan OL vs. Mauro, Gunter and Nkemdiche
WR1 11 Fitzgerald......14 Nelson.........16 C Williams.....19 Agudosi
LT 68 Veldheer.........69 Holden
LG 75 Boone
C 53 Shipley...........70 Boehm.........79 Tuerk
RG 74 Watford.
RT........73 Wetzel...........69 Holden
TE .87 Niklas...........86 Seals-Jones
WR2 .13 Ja Brown......12 Jo Brown.....10 Golden
QB 07 Gabbert.........05 Stanton.......09 Barkley
RB 23 A Peterson....33 K Williams....35 Penny.....37 Foster..48 B Hill
TE 84 Gresham
DE......60 DQ Jones....95 King
NT.......96 S Williams...94 A Johnson
DT.......99 J Casey......97 Klug
OLB....91 D Morgan...92 Dodd
ILB.....59 Woodyard....55 J Brown
ILB.....54Williamson...50 Palmer......53 Bates
OLB...98 Orapko........93 Walden
CB.....25 A Jackson....36 Sims........24 Reed
FS .....31 Byard..........35 Riley.........41Trawick
CB.....26 Ryan............23 McClain...33 T Smith
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Titan Pass Defense
Gabbert is still adjusting to life as a starter. He still has accuracy issues deep and over the middle nad sometimes has difficulty stitching enough completions together to sustain a drive. At WR, Fitz is having a record breaking year, but his remaining partners in crime are less than 50-50 on contested or clutch plays. There are signs of life, however, at TE - a Gabbert go-to target - where where Ricky Seals-Jones increasingly looks like a keeper.
Cardinal pass protection is stil problematic (Gabbert was sacked 6 times by Ram pass rushers). Tenn pass rushers (a half dozen of them have 3 or more sacks) are undoubtedly licking their chops. The onus will be on Gabbert to get rid of the ball quickly/but not so quick as to make mistakes. The "pick machine" in the Tenn secondary is their FS (Byard) who has 6 interceptions.
Key Matchups: Card OL vs. Tenn Front 7. Fitz vs. A Jackson. Seals-Jones vs. Byard. A Peterson or Fowler vs. Cyprien. Nelson or Ja Brown vs. Ryan
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Titan Run Defense
Depends on injuries - If A Peterson can't go, K Williams will be given another shot at fame and fortune, with Fowler a key backup. Otherwise look for the Cards to shorten the game on the shoulders of AP and KW.
Woodyard ((99 tackles/33 more than the next guy) leads Tenn tacklers followed by Williamson and Byard. The Tenn defense is set up so that their ILB's and interior linemen are most active vs. the run and their edge guys are a continual pass rushing threat. Look for Cards to attack the perimeters with screens, sweeps and tosses.
Key Matchups: K Williams vs. Orapko and Morgan. Card OL vs. Williams, Casey, Williamson and Woodyard
P 06 Kern
H 06 Kern
LS 48 Brinkley
KR 14 Weems
PR 25 A Jackson
K 04 Dawson
P 02 Lee
H 02 Lee
LS 49 Drescher
KR 33 K Williams
PR 33 K Williams
Matchup: Titan Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Kern is #15 ranked punter (.45 4 net). Succop is rankeds #4 (26 of 31). Nothing exceptional in the KR or PR depts.
Cards - Remain erratic in XP and FG game but both Dawson and Lee are capable of coolness undeer fire. Williams looked livelier lately as a returner,
Key matchups: Nothing of note
TN- HC M Mularkey. OC T Robiskie. DC D LeBeau. ST C Aukerman. Tony Dungy describes the Tenn playing style as kind of a "dump truck" (i.e. boring but consistently a winner). That kind of fits Mularkey's style. The presence of BA's former Steeler coaching mate, Le Beau should make for some interesting chess moves.
Cards - Before the Jacksonville game, Cardinal coaches seemed to be on the cusp of imploding. Last-second win over Jacksonville should have bolstered the credibility of an otherwise shaky Cardinal coaching staff. They lost to the Rams last week, but BA's troops throughout thr roster played hard
Cards - Bucannon, Veldheer iffy. A Peterson doubtful.
Bucs - TBD
How to Beat the Rams
1. Stop Henry and Murray. 2. Don't give up the big play. 3. Contain D Walker.
It's tough to have to play out the 4 remaining games on your schedule constantly facing playoff elimination - but that's why they play the games. Our suggestion: Treat each remaining game as if it were the Super Bowl.