Titans searching for answers after blowout loss

Titans Bills Football
Posted at 4:17 AM, Sep 20, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There’s a long way to go in this NFL season, but in a Monday night showdown with the Bills in Buffalo the Titans found out they have a long ways to go to compete with the NFL’s top tier.

There will need to be some serious soul searching during a short week before the Raiders come to town Sunday after the Titans watched the Bills run off 34 unanswered points in a 41-7 beatdown. The largest margin of defeat in the Mike Vrabel really covered all the ways a game can go wrong.

“We got our a---- kicked, plain and simple,” Vrabel said after the game. “They outcoached us, they outplayed us and that’s the definition of it. We’re going to get back to work and we’re going to find a way to win a football game.”

It started with injuries. Apparently, whatever injury bug the Titans had last season when they used a NFL record 91 players has come back around. Trenton Cannon went down covering the opening kickoff. Left tackle Taylor Lewan went down with a knee injury, seemingly without much contact, on the first offensive play. Bud Dupree departed, leaving the Titans without their top two pass rushers with Harold Landry already out for the season with a torn ACL.

It continued with an inability to make plays or get stops. Josh Allen looked like the MVP, Stefon Diggs was seemingly open on every play and the Bills bottled up Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and the Titans offense, holding them to just 187 total yards.

The Bills just have more dudes than the Titans do.

Allen threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns, buying time against a pass rush that was unable to get home consistently and carving up a secondary that played two rookies and a second-year man in Caleb Farley with Kristian Fulton out and Ugo Amadi going down early in the game. Diggs took full advantage for three touchdowns in a 12-catch, 148-yard performance.

He was left completely open by Farley on his first touchdown, a four-yard toss that gave the Bills a 17-7 first-half lead. He ran by rookie Tre Avery for a 46-yard bomb to start the third quarter and then victimized Chris Jackson on a 14-yard slant that made it 34-7.

“They played a really great game,” safety Kevin Byard said. “We wanted to make them earn everything, and we did that sometimes, but then in that second half, we really didn’t make them earn anything. It was just one of those games, honestly.”

To make matters worse the Titans offense and special teams unraveled in the second half. Kyle Phillips muffed a punt for a second straight week, leading to a Bills field goal, and to Amani Hooker coming on to field the next punt only to muff it himself.

Ryan Tannehill threw two interceptions trying to make something happen in the second half. The second one was returned 43 yards for a score by Matt Milano, ending Tannehill’s night.

“I haven’t been a part of a whole lot of football games like that,” Tannehill said. “Brutal, brutal night. We’ll have to turn the page quickly on this one and get ready for next week.”

There is no quarterback controversy. Malik Willis came in for his first regular-season action, but the third-round pick nearly threw an interception of his own on his first pass and then fumbled the ball away in the fourth quarter.

Tannehill still gives the Titans the best chance to win. But that will be a tall task no matter who the quarterback is unless they can figure out an offensive line that’s fallen woefully short of their expected standard in the first two weeks, especially without Lewan Monday night. They also need Henry to get going – he rushed for just 25 yards on 13 carries – to open things up for a passing attack with no proven receivers.

The Titans will get off the long flight back to Tennessee with more questions than answers as they try to quickly turn the page for a Sunday meeting against the also 0-2 Raiders. Both teams will be desperate to get a win to turn their season around.

The importance of the game is clear. Since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970, 400 teams have started the season 0-2. Only 38 (9.5%) have reached the playoffs, so you can’t afford to allow the hole to get deeper.

And right now it’s not clear the Titans have enough shovels to dig their way out.