Titans need late-game run-blocking mindset, finisher Derrick Henry right from the start

mdi construction barINDIANAPOLIS – Consistently under social-media fire for his play-calling, Terry Robiskie spoke this week about his stubborn streak, and the way he will stick with run plays that don’t work, patiently waiting for one to pop.

IMG 4303At halftime at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday, he lit into his offense for its failures: 10 carries by DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry produced all of 3 yards.

The stick-with-it mentality that turns off a loud subset of Titans fans dying to see the team open things up was in full play, per Taylor Lewan. He used colorful language while talking about the second-half mindset that produced a 20-16 win and moved the Titans to 7-4.

Robiskie didn’t pull out a bunch of different plays.

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Titans sure to laud 20-16 win in Indy as just their style

mdi construction barINDIANAPOLIS – After another game filled with all kind of ugly, the Titans once again found a way to win against a team with inferior talent.

With an uninspiring 20-16 win over the Colts, the Titans are 7-4 and in solid shape in the AFC playoff race.

But they didn’t solve offensive production issues that hound them. They really had just two high-quality drives -- but they were the one that gave them the lead for good with 5:59 left in the game and the one that bled out the clock to seal the win.MurraySurroundedIND

After struggling badly running the ball all game, Derrick Henry churned out yards on the 77-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 1-yard plunge by DeMarco Murray.

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One of these four games will tilt the AFC South

mdi construction barINDIANAPOLIS – The 3-7 Colts and 4-6 Texans aren’t going to the playoffs.

AFCSouthThe hopes of the two teams that have won the AFC South 13 of the 15 division titles since realignment in 2002 crashed with their quarterbacks – Andrew Luck’s shoulder has cost him the entire season and DeShaun Watson’s season ended with a torn ACL on Nov. 2.

It’s going to be the 7-3 Jaguars or the 6-4 Titans who take the division. (Both are 2-1 in the division, with Tennessee taking the first head-to-head, Week 2 in Jacksonville, 37-16).

The other could get in as a wild card, which would make for the first time the AFC South sends two teams to the postseason since 2012.

The Jaguars play the Titans at Nissan Stadium on Dec. 31 in the regular season finale for both teams, a game with huge stakes.

I think one of four other games before then will ultimately decide who wins the division.

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Mailbag: If Mike Mularkey was forced to make a change to his staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Before MDI Construction sends me off to Indianapolis for Sunday's crucial AFC South game, we need to sort through the mail.

You should also know about the sale going on here that runs through Cyber Monday. Even Delanie Walker, who you will find at the end of this, says you should check it out.

Now on to your questions. Thanks for giving me plenty to choose from, I've tried to hit on a good variety.

PK: This is a more complicated question than you might think.TitansFloor

For starters, Mike Mularkey only has one year on his contract after this one, and presumably, the majority of his staff is in line with that. (Outside of Dick LeBeau, who I believe is year-to-year.) The prevalent thinking of many fans is, get a new assistant and things change dramatically. Mularkey has control of his staff, not Jon Robinson. And Mularkey's assistants are doing what he asks them to do or what he signs off on them doing.

Having Amy Adams Strunk or Robinson issue a directive for a change on the staff is not the same -- or as important, frankly -- as issuing a directive about a change in approach.

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pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Pickers has been good. The picking has been bad.

It doesn't mean we do not forge ahead.

Games of the week (2-3-1)

Rams -2.5 vs. Saints

I don’t want to go back to the Rams after losing with them against the Vikings last week. But the Saints should be favored in this game for how well they are playing. I go with the startling spread theory. When it strikes me as wrong, it turns out not just right, but big right.

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DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry not subject to same decision-making critiques as Titans at other positions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The SkyCam angle used to show us the Titans Nov. 16 loss at Pittsburgh gave us a different vantage point on the Titans running game.

And we saw DeMarco Murray make some less-than-great choices on some carries, moving away from holes and into defenders.MurrayPIT

Mike Mularkey said there were some plays where the Titans failed to block the right people. But he’s not in the habit of reviewing where a back did or didn’t go.

“I've never (played running back), and I'm sure most of those people making those comments haven't either, to tell our backs how to run, especially DeMarco Murray, he’s got 7,000 yards of hitting holes the way he does,” Mularkey said. “I know if we block it better, we should've had bigger runs. We had opportunities for much bigger runs than we had (Thursday night) if we block it better.”

This idea of nearly complete running back decision-making freedom is something I don’t recall every delving into.

Jeff Fisher, who was an NFL punter returner, used to say he’d never question a punt returner’s decision on whether to fair catch a ball or not.

Beyond that, is there another position where decision-making isn’t subject to coaching review, where film review doesn’t focus on it?

I’m thinking the answer is no.

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Titans need to try more no-huddle with Marcus Mariota

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When the Titans stalled in 2016, they’d occasionally jump into no-huddle.

It served as a change-of-pace for the offense, often jump-starting things. The Titans could dictate some matchups by not substituting, thereby not allowing an opponent to substitute.

But in 2017, no-huddling has been hard to find outside of 2-minute drills and faster play dictated by a big deficit. The Titans did it a bit against the Ravens on Nov. 5 coming out of their bye.HuddleSEA

That was cause for optimism. Maybe their bye-week review prompted them to go back to it?

Mike Mularkey said film showed the Ravens were susceptible to it.

We haven’t seen it since.

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What the Titans mean when they say they are asking 'a lot' of Marcus Mariota

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Mularkey has routinely said the Marcus Mariota has increased responsibility in his third NFL season.

On Friday. After the big loss at Pittsburgh, the Titans coach said this:

“Yeah, we're asking him to do a lot, a lot more than I've been around. We trust him to do that. I know he's thrown more. I'm glad he's our quarterback. I know this, we still have a chance to win every game with him no matter what the score is, where it is in the game. Nobody ever talks about how accurate he is in some of the throws he does make, all you guys keep asking me are about the throws he doesn't. There's a lot of good throws that he makes every Sunday, very tight window throws.”

First off, when a quarterback throws four interceptions, the conversation isn’t going to be about his completions and Mularkey surely knows that.MariotaPointPIT

Secondly, what’s with this conversation about all Mariota is being asked to do?

If a quarterback is asked to do a lot, I presume it involves the passing game. And the Titans passing game isn’t doing a lot.

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