The Titans will arrive in London this week facing a crossroads in their season, and the result of their first ever game played on international soil will very likely steer which direction this season is going to go.
Beat the Chargers at Wembley Stadium Sunday and the Titans will be 4-3 and on top of the AFC South at the virtual midway point of the season. They’ll return home for their bye week feeling good and able to rest and recover for the stretch run following a brutal start to the season on the injury front.
But a loss to surging Los Angeles and the Titans will give up the hold on first place that they’ve held for the past month and face serious questions entering the bye week.
It’s a crossroads that running back Dion Lewis said he “couldn’t imagine” the Titans would face following their overtime win over the Eagles 17 days ago. At that point they were riding high at 3-1, fresh off a win over the reigning Super Bowl champions. There was a thought that the London trip could be a global coming out party for a team that reached the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons just this past year.
But then the Titans lost to the Bills on a last second field goal, and were embarrassed at home Sunday in a 21-0 loss to the Ravens. They failed to score a touchdown in either game, and now people are asking what’s wrong?
Truth is, not a lot has changed. The defense is still playing well enough to win, but the struggles of the offense are catching up to them.
The offensive power outage didn’t just start with the Buffalo game. The Titans have failed to score a touchdown in three of their six games, and Marcus Mariota and the offense managed just one TD in two other games.
We credited the Titans, and rightfully so, for just finding ways to win in September despite all the injuries and limited offensive production. But the smoke and mirrors aren’t working anymore.
Maybe the injuries are catching up to them. Or maybe opponents are catching on to the ways they tried to mask their shortcomings in the first month. The Ravens attacked a beat up offensive line with a steady diet of pressure. The belief was that the Titans wouldn’t be able to hold up long enough for their inexperienced wide receivers to get open in the Baltimore secondary, and that proved to be the case with the Ravens sacking Mariota a whopping 11 times.
Expect more pressure to come and expect more people to load the box to stop Lewis and Derrick Henry in the running game. The Titans are going to have to find an answer, starting with this game against the Chargers.
The NFL is an offensive league, and the Chargers have a potent attack. It should go without saying that the Titans won’t win Sunday unless they score touchdowns.
The Titans did it with special teams, gadget plays and well-timed shot plays in September. Can they re-discover the magic?
They need to in a hurry, or the result Sunday could set them up for a very long second half of the year.