After the way the Tennessee Titans finished their win off against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football, it looked as if Week 7’s game against the Cleveland Browns would be a relatively easy win.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Through the first seven games of the season, the Titans have struggled mightily on offense in the first half. For the most part, Tennessee has done a nice job of bouncing back in the final two quarters. However, the offensive ineptitude has spilled over into the second half on several occasions — see the losses to Oakland and Houston as well as win against the Browns.
With a predominantly healthy roster on the offensive side of the ball, the question has to be asked — is the struggling offense due to a lack of talent or poor coaching decisions?
Focusing on the win at Cleveland, it is hard not to wonder what this offense would look like with a coordinator who was more willing to scheme to his players’ strengths instead of enforcing the “his way” routine.
Terry Robiskie did all he could to establish the run, even when it was clear Cleveland’s guys up front were having none of it. While the run-pass ratio was nearly 50-50 (32-34), the ground game was ineffective. The Titans averaged 2.5 yards per rush, with DeMarco Murray carrying 18 times for 59 yards (3.3 ypc) and Derrick Henry rushing 13 times for 13 yards.
Even more alarming, Robiskie stubbornly continued to try and impose a ground attack against a defense without two starting defensive backs. That is a red flag anyway you look at it. It is fine trying to establish the run early, but when it continues to fail into the second half, it’s time to start relying on your franchise quarterback to make plays with his arm.
Yes, Marcus Mariota is still limited by his hamstring injury. It is hard to use that as an excuse when he torched the Indianapolis Colts for 306 yards and a touchdown on 23-of-32 passing, doing much of that work in the second half. He has proven a very capable quarterback in the pocket, and it is time to start letting him take control of the offense when the game plan isn’t working and changes need made.
Even more concerning about the offense this season is the lack of success in the red zone. Tennessee had a league-best 72 percent touchdown rate in the red zone last season. Through seven games this year, the Titans are the second-worst team in the league at 41 percent.
The only saving grace outside of kicker Ryan Succop on Sunday was safety Kevin Byard (three interceptions) and the Titans’ defense, which stepped up to hold the Browns to three field goals.
Tennessee has its bye in Week 8, giving the team a chance to heal up at some key positions on both sides of the ball. The Titans should be using the time off to make some adjustments to the offense as well. The playbook has to open up when teams continually load the box to stop the run. If Robiskie continues to ignore chances to attack teams through the air when opportunities present themselves, the offense will never reach its peaks and continue to underachieve.