By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special contributor

The Titans had a successful game plan in all three phases in Atlanta. The blueprint was obvious and worked from the beginning until the end of the game.MercedesBenzStadium

The Titans offense used the threat of the run game to open up the middle of the field for passes. The defense wanted to be physical and a nuisance to the Falcons’ receivers and it frustrated the offense all game. The special teams wanted to pin the Falcons deep and make them drive the length of the field and with good coverage and great punts and they executed that well.

The Titans got the ball first to open the game and worked to get Corey Davis involved early with a 14-yard pass and reception. This is a formula the Titans used last year to get Davis involved early. This is a formula they use because if they don’t get Davis targets early, he can disappear. It worked on Sunday.

On the second drive, the Titans again opened with a pass with one receiver in the formation. The Falcons had nine players in the box to take away the heavy set and possible run formation.

Atlanta used eight in the box to stop the Titans’ run and used a free blitzer off the weak side to keep Marcus Mariota from rolling out.
The focus was on the Titans’ offensive line going into the game and especially the rookie guard Nate Davis who was getting his first playing time and much-maligned Jamil Douglas – they both played.Winners300

Davis looked strong in the run game, but had some issues with Grady Jarret and his signature swim move and inside penetration but looked good on combo blocks to the second level. He has some pop and punch in his hands to control a late gap blitzer

Davis did show some rust getting used to the speed of the game. He was late to pick up his man at times, had some slow movements off the snap, but these will easily be corrected.

Davis also showed well in pass protection, he did have help from Ben Jones on a few pass plays.

Douglas lacks the ability to sustain his blocks, defenders bounce off him and get back into the play quickly. Douglas was playing very carefully in this game, slow at times. But his snaps were limited. I expect Davis to get the bulk of playing time moving forward.

The loss of Falcons’ starting safety Keanu Neal showed up on multiple occasions with blown coverages by their safeties and the lack of a presence in the middle of the field. Too many receivers were running wide open in the middle of the field for big gains.

Marcus Mariota was outstanding in this game.

Mariota is at his best when he can read defenses pre-snap and go to his best option based on coverage.

The Falcons game seemed different than the others because of a few factors

First, the line was quick setting and protecting for a shorter time.

Second, the Titans used a lot of motion to determine pre-snap what the coverage they were in. It looked like on multiple passes, Mariota motioned a receiver on his own to one side to create a more favorable matchup. Giving Mariota this freedom is a plus moving forward.

There were multiple designed rollouts with the line slide protecting and give Mariota the free defender to beat on the outside of the pocket instead of inside the tackle box.

The biggest factor was the receivers got open.

Receptions by the starting WRs:

A.J. BrownBrownATL

First-and-10: 55-yard gain and TD. Two-man route, Brown had a huge cushion off the line of scrimmage. Brown’s run after the catch was outstanding to avoid defenders in the middle of the field.

Second-and-10: 11-yard gain and Td. Tight man coverage, Brown used a subtle push off to create space and a great fade throw by Mariota. The push-off was a savvy veteran move for a rookie.

First-and-10: 28-yard gain and first down. Zone coverage, ran free in the deep middle, safeties were pushed deep by Darius Jennings running vertically.

Corey Davis

First-and-10:14-yard gain and first down. A 5-yard out route versus off-man coverage, made a defender miss and ran for 9 after the catch.

Third-and-15: 16-yard gain and first down. A 12-yard cushion by the nearest DB. Blown assignment by the nickel LB, two defenders on a short out-route.

Second-and-10: Tight man coverage, Davis curled inside, and Mariota threw it to the boundary.cDavisHandFaceATL

Third-and-3: Incomplete pass. Huge drop on third down, when Mariota was under pressure and delivered a ball right into his hands but couldn’t come up with the easy catch.

First-and-10: A 22-yard gain and first down. Tight man coverage, come-back route. Davis outmuscled Trufant for the reception. Mariota with very good pocket awareness to avoid a sack.

Third-and-5: 23-yard gain and TD. Off-man coverage on deep out route, poorly played by CB Isaiah Oliver, but Davis did a good job staying with the throw.

First-and-10: A 16-yard gain and first down. Deep inside dig route against zone coverage, easy open space and easy target for Mariota.

I thought on the other side of the ball the Titans’ defensive backs were very handsy and physical with the receivers of the Falcons. The Titans mixed up their coverages from man-to-man to zone and also bracketed Julio Jones on crucial downs.

The Titans had a lot of success because the officials did not call pass interference much at all. The Falcons did not take note and copy that in their coverage. Sometimes games are dictated by the officials and in this one, they were allowing contact downfield which played right into the hands of the Titans DBs.

Matt Ryan was poor all day. He didn’t look confident from the start.

He has a tendency to stare down Jones and doesn’t do a good job of feeling that second option. Ryan is at his best when he gets Jones in an obvious man-to-man coverage or he can read the simple coverage off the snap and go to his TE or short receiver. Because of the physical coverage by the Titans, he was forced to hold onto the ball too long and also go away from his favorite target in Jones.BeddingfieldHat

Ryan was behind or short on a number of throws short and intermediate. His best target all day was TE Austin Hooper.

The Titans had five sacks but most of those would be considered coverage sacks. Jurrell Casey and Harold Landry did have one good quick rush each, but receivers were covered up short and long.

Casey’s was a big sack, with a forced fumble and recovery versus the Falcons’ slide protection where he beat the center and left guard. Malcolm Butler got a dumb taunting penalty which took the ball from midfield to back into their own side of the field.

Kenny Vaccaro made a big fourth-down stop. The FB and WR hit each other on a poorly blocked play, but Vaccaro slanted inside quickly to provide the penetration.

Jayon Brown tipped a deep pass intended for Jones which would have resulted in a big gain.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

Brett Kern consistently put the Falcons offense in long drive situations. Especially when the Falcons were down and needed some quick scores, he forced them to go the length of the field.

Special teams defensive back Chris Milton has shown up on special teams. He is usually a free defender and has shown good open-field tackling on kickoffs and punt coverage.

Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith needs some praise as well for using Mariota’s strengths as a passer and staying with the running game with Derrick Henry.

We saw poor fourth-down coaching decisions from both teams. This is a common theme around the league with newer head coaches, but winning teams with veteran coaches don’t make these decisions very often.

Positives: Marcus Mariota, A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Jurrell Casey, Brett Kern, Chris Milton, Titans CBs.
Negatives: Dion Lewis.

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Blake Beddingfield was a Titans' scout for 19 years, through the 2017 draft. He was the team's director of college scouting for his final six years. Follow him on Twitter at @BlakeBeddingfi1. He’s brought to you by Winners Bar & Grill, a places where you should definitely have a beer, drink a Kickin'It Cooler and watch a game.

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