NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Six things standing out for the Titans after Sunday's win over the Patriots, and heading into this week's game against the Colts.
Marcus Mariota's Confidence
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is now rolling. His passing totals in the past two games – wins over the Cowboys and Patriots -- are impressive. Mariota has completed 37-of-53 passes (69.9 %) for 468 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 122.2 passer rating. He looks as confident – and as healthy -- as he's looked all season. It's a good sign for the Titans moving forward.
A Higher Ceiling
Mike Mularkey is a good man. During his time as a head coach, I felt he took too much criticism because he did a lot to change the culture, and results. I also felt like, because of the offense he oversaw, there was a ceiling to the success, and the Titans probably hit it last year. I suspect that feeling is a big reason why the coaching change was made. Looking back at the team that lost to the Patriots in January, compared to the Titans team that pounded the Patriots on Sunday, I'm further convinced the Titans can take things to a level they wouldn't have under the previous regime.
One of the most popular questions I get each week centers on running back Derrick Henry, and why he doesn't play more. My answer has oftentimes centered on Dion Lewis, and his effectiveness. Heck, Lewis is a tough guy to take off the field. But I've been impressed by how Henry has handled his reduced playing time, and on Sunday I was really impressed with his performance. Henry ran the ball well while scoring two touchdowns against the Patriots, and it wouldn't surprise me if it earned him more opportunities this week against the Colts.
Defense, Defense, Defense
The Titans couldn't climb any higher than their No.1 ranking in scoring defense, but the group certainly established itself further with a complete performance against the Patriots. Up front, the Titans were physical. The front seven provided constant pressure on quarterback Tom Brady, making him look like a guy who'd ordered his hot chicken 'Extra Hot' when he should've stuck with the 'Mild'. He was noticeably uncomfortable. In the secondary, cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson, Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler all played well, along with safeties Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro, who set a tone with a big hit early. Next up is a big challenge vs. QB Andrew Luck and the Colts.
Corey Davis Impact
We've seen two standout games from receiver Corey Davis this season, and the expectation now is we'll see more and more. Davis caught seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore couldn't cover him. Titans Radio color analyst Dave McGinnis had the line of the day at one point when he said Gilmore looked like he was falling out of a boat, struggling to reach for a life jacket, on a play while grabbing at Davis, trying to defend him. Some rough waters are ahead for DBs if Davis can keep it going.
Here Comes Jonnu
After the game, I saw some chatter from Patriots Nation about how the Patriots played without tight end Rob Gronkowski, and how much of a difference his absence made. Well, the Titans have been playing without tight end Delanie Walker since Week One. Yes, the Titans still miss Walker. But second-year tight end Jonnu Smith is beginning to emerge. Smith has touchdowns in back-to-back games, and he's starting to play like a guy with some confidence himself.
The Tennessee Titans take on the New England Patriots in Week 10 of the 2018 season on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)