Titans killed their chance with third-and-2 call, execution

mdi construction barSANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Third-and-2, 1:20 left in the game, Titans at the 49ers' 32-yard line.

IMG 4902On a play that could have gotten the first down the Titans needed to force the hosts to burn two timeouts and gain ground for a game-winning field goal, they handed off to DeMarco Murray, who ran into center Ben Jones' back for no gain.

The 50-yard field goal that followed gave them a short-lived 1-point lead.

Jimmy Garappolo then carved up Tennessee, positioning the Niners for a 45-yard Robbie Gould field goal and a 25-23 win.

The conversation about the play-call after the game suggested our finger-pointing is not as cut-and-dried as we might think.

My video report on the third-and-2 play:

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Mailbag: The power of point differential

IMG 4862SAN FRANCISCO -- Greetings from the West coast. Wish you were here. Kind of.

Behold the view I had Friday night when I arrived in my hotel Friday evening.

Thanks to my travel sponsor, MDI Construction.

On to your questions.

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pickers vodka 847x63SAN FRANCISCO -- The Titans, I believe, will stay in San Jones, and Sunday's game is in Santa Clara at Levi's Stadium.

I'm fortunate to have arrived early in the Bay Area to spend time with my niece and her boyfriend, And a great travel sponsor in MDI Construction and a great rate at a big-time Marriott have made it easy to stay in the big city.

From where I offer these picks: (free content)

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Robiskie, LeBeau on being old-fashioned in modern NFL

Coordinators2TEMPE, Ariz. -- Dick LeBeau is 80. Terry Robiskie is 63.

I spoke to each of them this week while the Titans are working at Arizona state. How do they strike a balance between whatever old-fashion football they have loyalty to and the new stuff that emerges in the modern NFL?

My video report:

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Titans not bailing themselves out as often on third-and-long

IMG 4833TEMPE, Ariz. – A year ago, when the Titans got themselves stuck with runs for a loss, penalties and incompletions, they had a pretty good knack for digging out of it.

Facing third-and-10 or more, they averaged 8.2 yards and converted 29.9 percent of the time.

This year those numbers have tumbled to 6.8 yards and 15.8 percent.

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As Titans seeks fixes, offense may shrink rather than expand

TEMPE, Ariz. — Terry Robiskie spoke after Titans practice about how he’s trying to help get the offense back on track. 

My video report:

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Is isolation providing the Titans a setting to stew?

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Titans avoided a lot of air travel by staying here to work this week between their game at Arizona and San Francisco.

They got themselves a big bonding week by staying at a remote hotel in the desert.

I think it was a smart move when they planned it.

Now, I am wondering a bit.

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How many two-man routes are the Titans really running?

TEMPE, Ariz. – Under Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans failed to sufficiently protect Marcus Mariota. He said all the time if he offered all the tackle help we were looking for, there would be no one to catch passes.


The perception is that Mike Mularkey is stubborn in just the opposite way – that he dedicates so many people to protection that there aren’t enough people running routes.

The narrative that the Titans run a ton of two-man routes has really taken off, and I set out in recent days to see if it’s really accurate.

We’ll start off with Pro Football Focus, which keeps records of such things.

According to PFF, by their standards, the Titans have run a grand total of six pass plays where they sent out just two men on routes, tied for the ninth-most.

Now that would seem to be a rigid standard. PFF says the Titans have run 53 pass plays with three-man routes, the third-most in the NFL, and 107 with four-man routes, the 13th most.

But that conflicts with Mike Mularkey’s assessment.

What’s the basis for how many of the five eligible run routes?

“The sell of the run, the more guys you have involved, the better the sell and obviously you’ve got more guys in protection,” he said. “We have two-man routes. We have one-man routes. We’ve hit some touchdowns on third-and-1s that were one-man, we call them race routes. All based on how well we sell the run, how well they are trying to stop the run.

“But two-man routes? I want to say four or five a game. The bulk of the time it’s four men out.”

And one of those four is chipping to help block on his way out.

“I can’t say a percentage,” Marcus Mariota said. “I think most of our concepts there is more than two options.”

But Rishard Matthews took the question a different direction.

Matthews is likely talking two receiver routes as opposed to two targets.

Per Greg Cosell of NFL Films on The Midday 180, The Titans are using three wide receivers only 42 percent of the time, the lowest percentage in the league. That lines up well with Matthews’s 50-50 estimation.

As we look at some plays after the fact, there are probably a share that are essentially two-man routes that are in actuality broader in scope.

apple icon 114x114 precomposedFewer targets mean more protection which should mean more time to find those targets. And Mariota would need more time to find those targets because if only four or five defenders are rushing, then seven or six are in coverage and have to be sorted through.

“First and foremost, if you’re able to protect yourself and give yourself time to hopefully exploit whatever the defense is trying to do,” Mariota said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a two-man route, a three-man route or a whole progression type of deal. If you create time for yourself I think you have an opportunity to attack.”

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