NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Here's a look at six things that stood out – plus a bonus item -- for the Titans in Sunday's 27-23 loss to the Rams:
It surprises me to see some of the negativity directed at Titans receiver Corey Davis. When Davis left the game early with a shoulder injury, some Twitter hate erupted on my timeline. But Davis came back not long after, and turned in his best NFL performance to date. Davis showed toughness in fighting back from the injury. And he showed why the Titans drafted him fifth overall during his six-catch, 91-yard performance. He made tough catches, and fought for extra yards. Yes, Davis missed time earlier this season with a hamstring injury. But I have no doubt he is going to be a good one. He sure looked good Sunday.
The Titans didn't lose on Sunday because of the refs. But I thought Sunday's crew was awful. The officials looked like they were flying by the seat of their pants on the onside kick. When the Titans surprised the Rams with the successful kick, they also surprised the refs, who threw a flag, and then said the Rams had called a time out. Only the Rams didn't call a timeout. Eventually the officials said the ball hadn't been put in play, but the Titans said they'd been given the signal. The crew missed a critical false start by the Rams on 4th and 1, and appeared to miss contact on Titans punter Brett Kern. Titans coach Mike Mularkey challenged two bad calls, and got them right. It was a bad day for the stripes.
Upbeat locker room**
The Titans locker room after the 49ers game was not a happy place. It was quiet, players were surly, and some didn't want to talk at all. It was similar to the mood following the loss in Arizona. But Sunday's locker room was different at Nissan Stadium. No one was moping after a third straight loss. Don't get me wrong – guys are ticked at themselves. Tight end Delanie Walker was clearly unhappy. But the overall vibe felt like this: Yes, we've screwed up to put ourselves in this position, but we have a chance to make things right. I expect the Titans to come out fighting on a win-and-in scenario vs. the Jaguars.
Gurley is a beast
Giving credit where credit is due here – Rams running back Todd Gurley is a beast. He changed the game on Sunday, running it (22 rushes, 118 yards) and catching it (10 receptions, 158 yards, two touchdowns). I watched Gurley play at Georgia, so I knew what was coming. But the guy is a difference-maker, and you won't hear me scoffing about MVP talk surrounding him.
Another close loss**
There's reason to be frustrated. Until recently, the Titans had been finding ways to win close games. Under Mularkey, the Titans had won eight straight games decided by four points or less. But during the recent three-game skid, the Titans have been losing close games, and failing on late opportunities. Against Arizona (12-7), San Francisco (25-23) and Los Angeles (27-23) the Titans had a chance to win late. But the streak is going the other way now, and the Titans need to find a way to make it stop. And win.
Red zone issues
The Titans had the highest touchdown percentage in the red zone from Week 9-15, scoring touchdowns 76.5 percent of the time. But the team's inability to score touchdowns on Sunday is what cost the team the game against the Rams. The Titans reached the Rams one-yard line in the first half, and had to settle for a field goal after a false start and a sack. They also kicked field goals on drives that ended at the LA 19 and six-yard lines. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and players gave credit to the Rams defense, but also know it's on them to get this fixed.
The crowd was rowdy
Sure, there were some empty seats. But I thought the crowd at Nissan Stadium was enthusiastic, and rowdy, in several stretches during the contest. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Carol of the Bells got everyone hyped, and right after it played on the stadium's sound system, defensive lineman Jurrell Casey busted through the line and crushed Rams quarterback Jared Goff, resulting in a fumble that linebacker Wesley Woodyard picked up and ran in for a score. Some questionable calls got the crowd worked up, too. I'm expecting the crowd to make an impact on Sunday when the Jaguars come to town.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)