NASHVILLE – The Titans lost to the Giants 21-20 on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the contest:
Porous Run Defense
The Titans didn't lose on Sunday simply because they couldn't stop the run. There were plenty of other things that contributed to the blown lead, and inability to finish. We'll get to those in just a bit. But the leaky run defense sure didn't help matters. Giants running back Saquon Barkley racked up 164 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. He had a run of 33 yards, and another sprint for 68 yards. As a team the Giants ran for 238 yards on 32 carries – an average of 7.4 yards per carry. As good as the Titans were on defense early, the run defense doomed them in the second half. "That's not our standard, especially up front," Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons said. "We talk about stopping the run – that was our No.1 key defensively this week. They almost had 300 yards rushing, so that's not good enough."
The Titans started out well, scoring a touchdown on their opening possession of the game. Ryan Tannehill's seven-yard scoring toss to running back Dontrell Hilliard capped an early drive, and the team extended the lead to 10-0 in the second quarter on another nice drive. But there were way too many wasted possessions in this one, including four three-and-outs, a disappointing possession inside the 10 that ended with a field goal, and plenty of other squandered opportunities. The Giants looked like they were on the verge of getting blown out early, and the Titans let them hang around. It came back to bite them. "Yeah, we just gave up some opportunities out there," Tannehill said. "We didn't make some plays that were there. You've got to play a full game. I don't think we finished the way, obviously, that we wanted to. We didn't move the ball effectively enough throughout the game. And like you said, we had spurts where we did some good things. We've just got to be more consistent."
It looks like the Titans found a special player in rookie Kyle Philips, who contributed in a number of areas in Sunday's game. After the contest, however, Philips was upset with himself for a few mistakes of his own. Philips set the table for an early score with a 46-yard punt return, and his 21-yard reception on the final drive put the team in position to win the game with a field goal, which ended up sailing wide left. Philips led the Titans with six catches for 66 yards, and he showed some toughness with a catch across the middle. But Philips also muffed a punt, and he felt he could've been better. "I wasn't consistent, so I am a little disappointed with how I played today," Philips said. "Obviously the muffed punt, and there were a couple of catches I felt like I should have had. So, not a great game, and definitely something to build on. I felt like I was a little too much up and down, and I need to be more consistent for (Ryan) and the team. I am going to go to work next week and work on being more consistent and reliable."
Dontrell Hillard's Impact
Running back Derrick Henry led the Titans in rushing, with 82 yards on 21 carries. Henry was a bruiser, and he took some big hits from Giants defenders along the way. Fellow running back Dontrell Hilliard provided the dash on Sunday, as he recorded a pair of touchdown catches in the game. Hilliard got open for a seven-yard score early, and then he busted loose on a 23-yard pass when he outraced defenders to the end zone. Hilliard said he was glad to make an impact, and hope it's a sign of things to come. "When my number is called, I am ready and I want to take advantage," Hilliard said. "I appreciate the coaches having trust in me."
Too Many Mistakes
The game ended when Randy Bullock's 47-yard kick sailed wide left. "I felt great going (out there) and unfortunately it didn't go through," Bullock said. "This one kick isn't going to define me. I am going to come to work and be ready to go and on to Buffalo." Several Titans said the game shouldn't have come down to Bullock's kick, and they were right. The Titans had only themselves to blame for too many empty possessions. The Titans had only themselves to blame for at least three drops – I counted drops by Hilliard, Philips and tight end Geoff Swaim. The Titans had only themselves to blame for a muffed punt, for allowing Sterling Shepard to get open deep for a score, and they had only themselves to blame for a sloppy run defense, and for seven penalties (for 50 yards). Even Henry dropped a snap in the 'Wildcat' formation, and the Titans were just 3-of-11 on third down. Now the Titans have to bounce back from 0-1. "Like coach said, 'We shouldn't have even been in that situation," Henry said. "We had plenty of opportunities to win the game.' It's not Randy's fault; he's a great kicker. But we shouldn't have left it in Randy's hands. I felt like we should have done what we needed to do on our end to be able to win this game."
Early Pass Rush
The Titans were relentless rushing the passer in the first half, as Jeffery Simmons racked up a pair of sacks early, including a forced fumble. Bud Dupree also had a sack and a fumble recovery, and Rashad Weaver was all over Giants quarterback Daniel Jones as well. In the third quarter, Weaver got Jones again. For at least a bit, it was reminiscent of the team's nine-sack playoff game against the Bengals. But the sack flurry went silent late, in large part because the Giants didn't have to pass it much because of the success of their run game. "He's a tough cat," Dupree said of Jones. "He continues and continues to play hard every opportunity he gets to go out there and perform. Even when you think you've got inside a player like that and contained, he's always trying to make a play. So, it's on us. We should have come out and stopped them a little more."