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Deep Dive: The Titans' Red-Zone Issues

Deep Dive: The Titans' Red-Zone Issues

By MIKE HERNDON, columnist

Since Mike Vrabel took over as head coach in 2018, there have been a few themes that have come to define his teams even through the ups and downs and year-to-year variability that the NFL is designed to create. Those include a tough, physical defensive front that controls opposing running games, an elite red zone offense and a strong rushing attack.

Derrick Henry Red Zone
  Derrick Henry stuffed in the red zone

Through five games, several of those usually reliable strengths have been called into question. The strong run defense had looked to be in good shape through the first four weeks, but the dam broke against the Colts as backup Zack Moss ran wild through the Titans’ defense for 165 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns.

Time will tell whether that proves to be a blip, like the Saquon Barkley game from the opening week of 2022, or something more, but it’s concerning any time you see such a perceived strength look that helpless. And yes, it’s worth noting that nose tackle Teair Tart missed this matchup, which clearly proved to be a big loss.

The red zone offense is far more troubling. The Titans ranked first, second, fifth, and sixth in converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns over the past four seasons. Frankly, their success in cashing in these chances has probably served as perfume to mask the stink of a rotting offense for a while now.

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Quantifying the Titans' Identity Crisis: An Analytics Perspective

By JAKE DOWNARD

Jake Downard is a law student who creates NFL and NBA content focused on analytics on Twitter as @JakeAndBall. He also works with fanspo.com. A glossary of the analytics terms he uses is at the bottom of the piece.

If I had told you that the duo of Derrick Henry and Tyjae Spears would run for 89 yards and a TD, DeAndre Hopkins would catch eight of his 11 targets for 140 yards, Ryan Tannehill would complete 67% of his passes for 264 yards, and the offensive line would only allow one sack, would you have guessed that the Titans would lose by a touchdown in Indianapolis? Me neither.

Oct 8, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) catches a pass and looks toward the end zone during the second half against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
  DeAndre Hopkins vs. The Colts/ © Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans are currently in the midst of an identity crisis. [Unlocked]

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Titans vs. Colts: Defensive Woes and Kristian Fulton's Challenges in Focus

Titans vs. Colts: Defensive Woes and Kristian Fulton's Challenges in Focus

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans continued their ups and downs with a big drop-off versus the Colts. They lost to a divisional opponent while playing mainly against the Colts' backup’ quarterback, running back and left tackle.  

The Titans struggled to stop either of the Colts quarterbacks.  

Indianapolis Colts linebacker E.J. Speed (45) dives after Tennessee Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) as he rushes the ball Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
  DeAndre Hopkins vs. The Colts/ © Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Colts rookie Anthony Richardson was nine for 12 with 98 yards and backup Gardner Minshew was 11 for 14 with 155 yards passing.  Both were very efficient passing games with only one sack, and that came from a nickel blitz by Roger McCreary. 

The Titans struggled to stop the Colts’ run game and find their own. 

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PK TV: Colts 23, Titans 16

PK TVINDIANAPOLIS -- The rollercoaster ride continues. 

You are, undoubtedly, infuriated.

This is part of what the Titans get for trying to straddle competition in a weak AFC South in 2023 and revamping for 2024.

But Sunday's third loss of the season, another debacle, is the sort that leaves one wondering how much of a point there can be to competing with the other bad teams in this collection because it's so hard to imagine competition with actual good teams.

What was good about the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium? DeAndre Hopkins was. Nick Folk again. After that, it starts to get difficult. 

M<any of you came to break it down, vent, commiserate and tell me about the good football you saw from your couch while I endured on your behalf from the press box at Lucas Oil Stadium.

You can head to the private Facebook page or below to the secret YouTube to rewatch our review.

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No Consistency: 'My Bads' Get Titans Beat In Indianapolis

No Consistency: 'My Bads' Get Titans Beat In Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Tannehill was sacked just once. What a relief, right? The Colts hit him eight times Sunday afternoon but the pass pressure that has been the root of so many Titans’ problems so far this season didn’t dictate things.

The interview podium at Lucas Oil Stadium is probably the highest in the NFL – we look up our subject’s nostrils while they talk. But Tannehill didn’t have to dread the climb up there after this one, there was no beating.

Yet solving their top issue didn’t pave the way for the Titans to find points and win in their first AFC South game of the season. It simply gave them a chance to show off a number of other ugly issues in a 23-16 loss.  

Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss (21) rushes into the end zone for a touchdown Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
  Zach Moss runs through the Titans for a score/ © Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Hey, we can block their front, but look over here, where we completed three of six passes for 13 yards in the red zone. And watch Derrick Henry get stuffed on a massive fourth-and-1 from the Colts’ 5-yard line with 8:03 left in the game and a chance to pull ahead 23-20. Over here we’ve got the run defense we consider a key to our ID giving up 193 yards on 34 carries, highlighted by 7.2 a carry for Zack Moss. And let’s not forget once-promising second-rounder Kristian Fulton, who’s supposed to be our best corner. He allowed a 38-yard pass to Josh Downs on a third-and-16 in the second quarter and committed 22- and 16-yard pass interference penalties as well.

The Titans are 2-3 and they can’t win on the road where they’ve now scored one touchdown and are averaging 11.3 points a game. 

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Titans at Colts: Scouting Preview With All You Need to Know

Titans at Colts: Scouting Preview With All You Need to Know

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans and Colts both come into Sunday’s divisional matchup at 2-2. 

Tennessee is a veteran team but has been inconsistent throughout the first quarter of the season. Veteran teams should be more established at this point in the season, and the hope is Week Four against the Cincinnati Bengals was that defining game for the Titans.

Ryan Tannehill and Tyjae Spears
  Ryan Tannehill leads Tyjae Spears vs. Cincinnati/ Angie Flatt

The Colts are a team led by a rookie quarterback who has shown flashes of playmaking ability but also a lot of inconsistencies and unpredictable play. They are also starting three rookies this season.  

Game Five of the season won’t completely define each club regarding the rest of the season, but this is a big division game and gives the winner not only an advantage in the win column but also a point in the right direction for the second quarter of the season.

Matchups that favor the Titans:

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PK TV: Full Discussion of Titans-Colts

PK TV

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- So will the Titans continue their down-up-down-up pattern Sunday in Indianapolis?

Or will they build on five consecutive wins over the Colts in their first AFC South game of the season, relying on Derrick Henry along the way as they have so often in the past?

There are some reasons to be optimistic. While I know people are down on Kyle Philips because of his injury history, he brings short-area quickness the team's been lacking and should be back on the field. Peter Skoronski is also expected back after missing three games. And Nicholas Petit-Frere could pop up as an alternative to Andre Dillard at left tackle if Dillard struggles.

Skoronski is a difference-maker and Philips can be a contributor. So the Titans have that going for them. But they've got to figure out how to slow down Anthony Richardson, who's a difficult runner to handle though he's got a very low completion percentage.

So please head to the private Facebook page for members or the secret YouTube below to rewatch the great conversation we had at the half of Thursday Night Football.

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As Titans Ready For Colts, A Look At Derrick Henry's Divisional Dominance

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Since 2020 the Titans have been dominant in the AFC South with a 72.2 winning percentage.

Only Kansas City (82.3 percent) and Buffalo (80 percent) are better in their divisions in that span.

Derrick Henry
  Derrick Henry/ Angie Flatt

The Titans have done a lot right to sustain that dominance against the Colts (5-1), Texans (4-2) and Jaguars (4-2) over that time. But nothing has been more consistent than Derrick Henry's performance. [Unlocked]

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