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Titans Fall Flat in 38-13 Loss to the Cardinals in Season Opener


NASHVILLE – This much we know for sure after Sunday: The Titans aren't going undefeated in 2021.

OK, we also know this: A whole lot of improvements are needed after an abysmal performance in Week One.

The Titans got off to a brutal start in the regular season opener against the Arizona Cardinals, and things never got any better in a 38-13 loss before 67,216 fans at Nissan Stadium.

"It's disappointing when you lose, it's disappointing when you lose at home," Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said. "There is no other way to put it. It sucks when you lose, sucks when you get your ass kicked. All the credit to (Cardinals coach) Kliff (Kingsbury) and his staff and those players. You know, they beat us and outcoached us.

"This is what happens in the National Football League when you don't play well. Told the team, told you guys, we'll find out what our culture looks like this week and when we wake up in the morning and see the guys that want to come to work and guys that want to figure out a way to try to win a football game."

Offensively, the Titans had trouble protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the football.

Defensively, the Titans had trouble getting off the field, and keeping the Cardinals from scoring.

On special teams, the Titans had miscues in the kicking game.

It all added up to an ugly loss to start the season.

The Cardinals outgained the Titans 416 to 248 in total yardage on a day when Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns while running for another score. Tannehill, meanwhile, was sacked six times in the contest, and he lost the ball twice on fumbles in the process.

It was all part of a frustrating day – and perhaps a wake-up call.

"That definitely wasn't us," Titans running back Derrick Henry said. "But I don't think you panic. … We know we have to be better, we for sure have to be better in all three phases. And when you get hit in the mouth like that, it's about how you respond.

"We are not trying to find any excuses or make any, we just have to play better."

After the Cardinals took a 3-0 lead on a 34-yard field goal by kicker Matt Prater, things got worse in a hurry.

On Tennessee's next play, Tannehill was sacked by Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones, and he lost the ball in the process. Arizona's Corey Peters recovered it and returned in to the one-yard line. Then, Murray connected with receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a five-yard touchdown to give Arizona a 10-0 lead with 8:11 left in the first quarter.

It was a sign of things to come.

The Cardinals made it 17-0 with 10:59 left in the second quarter another Murray-to-Hopkins touchdown toss, this one from 17 yards out.

The Titans, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going on offense, as Tannehill was sacked three times early, and Henry found little room to run until the second half, when things were one-sided. Henry finished with 58 yards on 17 carries.

Tannehill was sacked five times in the contest by Arizona's Jones.

Tennessee's talented tandem at receiver, Brown and Julio Jones, were held in check. Brown had four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown while Jones had just three catches for 29 yards.

"We didn't come out and execute in any facet of the offense," said Tannehill, who completed 21-of-35 passes for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the contest. "There were missed opportunities, turnovers, the whole thing. We didn't execute the way we expect to and the way we need to in order to win football games"

The Titans finally got something going midway through the second quarter, when they capped off an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown run by Tannehill. The PAT was missed by new kicker Michael Badgley, however, so it was 17-6 Cardinals with 6:50 left in the second quarter.

But the good vibes didn't last long, as the Cardinals took the ball straight down the field and stretched the lead to 24-6 on a two-yard touchdown run by Murray. To make matters worse, Badgley missed a 46-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the first half, and the Cardinals led 24-6 at the break.

The Titans started the second half with some fire, sparked by safety Kevin Byard's interception in Arizona territory.

The Titans quickly turned that into points, as Tannehill connected with Brown for a 13-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 24-13 with 12:55 remaining in the third quarter.

But once again, it fizzled quickly, as the Cardinals drove the field again and scored on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Christian Kirk to make it 31-13 with 10:40 left in the third quarter.

After another Tannehill sack and fumble, the Cardinals were in business once again late in the third quarter.

And, once again, they cashed it in for points, this time with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Kirk, which made it 38-13.

The Titans have to turn the page quickly – they travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks next Sunday.

"It's a very long season – we have 17 games this year," Byard said. "It's not the start that we wanted to have, but at the end of the day, we find out what type of team we are when you have this type of adversity, especially to start the year. I'm going to make sure I come into the building tomorrow with a lot of energy, a lot of juice, a lot positive energy. Because at the end of the day, that's all we can do. We're not going to sit here, mope around, keep our heads down. We're going to keep battling, keep fighting and get ready for Seattle."

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