NASHVILLE – The Titans lost to the Denver Broncos 16-0 on Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the game as the team begins to turn its attention to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The decision to bench starting quarterback Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill was the biggest storyline coming out of Sunday's debacle in Denver. I've defended Mariota plenty on this website, and I'm not putting all the blame on him now. The offense has had plenty of issues from players not named Mariota. I'm not sure what Titans coach Mike Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson will decide at the quarterback position moving forward, but the decision made on Sunday was the right one. Mariota didn't have it – he said it himself. He missed open receivers, and he was picked off twice. Tannehill provided a spark when entering late, but it wasn't nearly enough.
Stuck in the Mud Offense
Twelve first downs. 204 yards of total offense. Two-of-14 (14 %) on third down. Thirty-nine rushing yards. Seven quarterback sacks allowed. Should I keep going? I don't think anyone wants me to. The Titans put forth a miserable showing on the offensive side of the ball in Denver, and it followed a clunker against the Bills. The team has been held to a touchdown or less in half of its games this season. No matter who plays quarterback moving forward, the Titans better figure out a way to, well, move the ball forward.
Once again, the Titans played well enough on defense to win the game. The Broncos managed just 11 first downs and 270 yards of offense on their own, and they were also just 2-of-14 on third down. Titans safety Kevin Byard intercepted a pass. The defense wasn't perfect – Joe Flacco was only sacked once, and the Broncos ran for over 100 yards. Still, the defense continues to do its job even when the offense isn't holding up its end of the bargain. On the season, the Titans are ranked 8th overall on defense (yards), and 5th in points allowed.
Jeffery Simmons Made the Trip
Titans rookie defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons is eligible to come off the team's Non-Football Injury list this week, and if all goes well there's a chance he could play as early as Sunday against the Chargers. It remains to be seen how quickly things unfold, and a lot will be determined by how Simmons handles his first week of practice since he was playing at Mississippi State. The fact he made the trip to Denver, however, showed the team wants to get him involved, and ready for what's ahead in his NFL career.
It's usually a bad sign when the punter is listed among the things that stood out from a game, but Brett Kern earned a spot in here because he was so active, and good. In his return to Denver, Kern punted the ball nine times for a 47.1-yard average. Eight of his nine punts were downed inside the 20, and he had a long punt of 61 yards. The Titans would love to use Kern less, but when he's been called upon, he's delivered.
In Early Hole in AFC South
In back-to-back weeks, the Colts and Texans have gone into Arrowhead Stadium and knocked off the Chiefs. But the Titans have no right to complain about that, because they haven't been able to help themselves. Six weeks into the 2019 season, the Titans (2-4) now trail the Texans (4-2) and the Colts (3-2) in the AFC South, and they're tied with the Jaguars (2-4) at the bottom of the division. The team's overall mark is not good, and its AFC (1-4) and AFC South record (0-2) is lacking, too. Sure, the Titans have 10 games left and time to right the ship. But if they don't find some answers soon, this season is going to be sunk.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Denver Broncos in Week 6 of the 2019 season at Empower Field at Mile High. (Photos: Donald Page)