NASHVILLE, Tenn. – What began as a promising first road start for rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger ended in Tennessee's (2-7) third consecutive loss, a 21-7 setback to the Ravens (6-4) at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Titans played a dominant first quarter, arguably their finest this season. Mettenberger orchestrated two nine-plus play drives, completed eight-of-11 passes to six different receivers for 98 yards and one touchdown (a three-yard shovel pass to Leon Washington), and went three-for-three on third down.
Bishop Sankey got the running game going with 38 yards on nine carries (4.2-yard avg.). The defense forced a three-and-out on Baltimore's only offensive possession of the quarter. Tennessee dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball for 12:50 to the Ravens 2:10. All that cumulated in a 7-0 lead going into the second quarter.
The obvious downfall of the game's opening 15 minutes was Shonn Greene's fumble at the goal line, a turnover that cost the Titans a much-needed touchdown.
There wasn't a specific play that shifted the momentum, but the Titans were a different team for the final three quarters. Mettenberger threw for just 81 yards, Sankey ran for just 20, and the Titans didn't score another point.
It will be a focus this week to replicate the team's first quarter performance and turn it into an hour-long show on Monday Night Football at LP Field.
Time of Possession – Ten: 29:13 Bal: 30:47
Rushing Yards – Ten: 67 Bal: 151
Penalties (Yards) – Ten: 9 (67) Bal: 5 (40)
Turnovers – Ten: 2 Bal: 0
Third Down Efficiency – Ten: 4-12 (33%) Bal: 4-13 (31%)
For the Ravens to have more time of possession after having the ball for just 2:10 in the first quarter gives a clear picture of how the rest of the game went. Baltimore had possession for 28:37 out of a possible 45 minutes over the final three quarters.
Third downs have been a constant focus for the Titans this season. The team converted each of its four third down attempts in the first quarter, but went 0-8 the rest of the way.
The offense and defense managed to minimize penalties, but special teams was consistently hurt by flags. Numerous "illegal block in the back penalties" led to poor field position throughout the second half. Four of the Titans' five second-half drives started at, or inside their own 15-yard line. The Titans offense managed only one first down in the second half.
Review of the Five Things to Watch
- The Mett Show: Act 2**
Mettenberger showed he can make all the throws when given time in the pocket. The rookie consistently found receivers on the sidelines, displaying his uncanny arm strength. The Titans didn't take many shots downfield but they did have a 36-yard pass to Justin Hunter called back for offensive pass interference.
His final line stands at 16-of-27 passing for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a rating of 76.
2. Let it Fly
The Ravens sacked Mettenberger five times and hit the rookie eight times in all. Baltimore's pass rush was the number one reason for Tennessee's offensive struggles after the first quarter.
3. Get to Joe Flacco
The Titans were only credited with one sack and two QB hits, but the pass rush (and secondary) really were impressive Sunday. Horton continued to utilize various blitz packages that kept Flacco uncomfortable in the pocket. Outside of the 32-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith, the entire Ravens passing game was held in check.
Flacco's line of 169 yards and one touchdown are numbers that the Titans have to be (and should be) pleased with. Jason McCourty deserves serious credit for holding Steve Smith to just three catches for 17 yards on seven targets.
- Stay Ahead of the Sticks**
It wasn't penalties that hurt the Titans in this category, but rather the five sacks of Mettenberger. Even still, the Titans did a much better job of creating manageable third down situations throughout the game.
5. Spoil the Homecoming
The Titans had their chances, especially in the first quarter to build themselves a comfortable lead, but couldn't come away with their third win of the season.
Quote of the Day
"Tough game for us, I thought we did a nice job starting out on the road in a tough place to play. I thought our team responded well in that standpoint. Obviously, you can't fumble the ball on the goal line. That hurts us because we have potentially a chance to be up two scores. It was unfortunate, we did it to ourselves some. They did it to us, field position in the second half. We missed some throws and couldn't get anything going. So it's very disappointing." – Ken Whisenhunt on the loss.