NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Here's a look at six things that stood out for the Titans in Sunday's loss to the Raiders:
Special teams issues
Go ahead and debate the onside kick to start the game. It's one of those plays where if it works it's a great, gutsy call, and if it doesn't, second-guessers can have a field day, and they have. In reality, the Titans had a great chance to recover it, and didn't. So it ended up costing the team 25 yards. But later, Brynden Trawick was called for a costly running into the punter penalty, which pretty much gave Oakland three points. The Titans allowed a 41-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson. Kicker Ryan Succop missed a field goal, but it was a 52-yarder after he made his first three, including one from 52. After the game, it was pretty clear Titans coach Mike Mularkey wasn't thrilled with the overall performance on special teams.
Corey Davis has strong hands**
One thing I've noticed about Titans receiver Corey Davis since Day One is his ability to snatch the football out of the air. Davis is not only a physical specimen, but he has strong hands. Davis went up high to make a spectacular catch in the first quarter, but he also caught several balls away from his body, on the move. It's a trait that allows him to be so successful running after the catch. I thought it was a pretty impressive start for the rookie.
Protection was good
Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack had 11 sacks last season for the Raiders, and fellow linebacker Bruce Irvin had seven. But the Titans were solid in pass protection on Sunday, as quarterback Marcus Mariota was hit just twice and sacked only once. On most plays, he had time to throw it. A big challenge is on the horizon – slowing Jacksonville's momentum. The Jaguars racked up a whopping 10 sacks against the Texans, including four from defensive lineman Calais Campbell.
Red zone issues**
This one can't be ignored – the Titans struggled in the red zone, and it ended up haunting them. Mariota, in fact, called in the "turning point" in the contest. The Titans reached Oakland's five-yard line and their seven-yard line, but came away with field goals both times. After converting 5-of-7 third downs in the first half, the Titans converted just 2-of-7 in the second half, causing drives to stall. The Titans were the NFL's best team in the red zone in 2016, producing touchdowns 72% of the time.
Rishard Matthews a go-to guy
There's been plenty of talk about all the team's new weapons on offense, but one returning player showed up time and again on Sunday: receiver Rishard Matthews. The team's leader in receptions yards in 2016, Matthews made back-to-back catches on third down on the opening drive, and he finished the game with a team-high 71 yards on five catches. The more Davis settles in and makes plays, the more it helps Matthews and his ability to find open space himself.
Run game woes
The Titans finished third in the NFL in rushing yards in 2016, but the team didn't exactly hit the ground running on Sunday. Yes, Mariota scored on a 10-yard run, but Titans running backs managed just 71 yards on 18 carries in the game. DeMarco Murray finished with just 44 yards on 12 carries, and he was tackled for a loss on a critical third-and-two in the red zone by swarming Oakland defenders. Derrick Henry picked up 25 yards on six carries. Take away Murray's 21-yard run, and the average per carry for the backs was just 2.8 yards. On many plays, it looked like there wasn't a lot of room to run. Mularkey said after the game "I'd like to see us run it better."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Oakland Raiders in Week 1 action at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)