NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Here's a look at six things standing out -- good and bad – following Sunday's 43-35 loss to the Chargers.
Matthews is surging**
Receiver Rishard Matthews has been impressive in recent weeks, and that continued against the Chargers. Matthews caught six passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns in San Diego. He has five touchdowns in the past five games. I like the way Matthews fights for the football, and for extra yardage. It's why the Titans signed him in free agency, and he's rewarding them for it. It's a good sign moving forward for the offense.
I guess I still can't understand why some in the Titans fan base seem so quick to bury quarterback Marcus Mariota. No, he hasn't been perfect. On Sunday, Marota was once again golden in the red zone, and he threw three touchdown passes while running for another. He has 13 touchdown passes and 3 interceptions in the last five games, and in his career has 28 TDs and 0 INTs in the red zone. Yes, there's no doubt he had some costly blunders. And yes, he has to figure out a way to eliminate the turnovers. But some of my followers on Twitter are calling for him to be benched. Really? That deserves a "C'mon, Man!"
Protection was solid**
The offensive line was solid once again in pass protection. San Diego's Joey Bosa entered the game on a roll, but he was quiet on Sunday. Mariota threw 43 passes on Sunday, and he wasn't sacked once. Right tackle Jack Conklin was once again solid, and Josh Kline continues to perform well in place of Quinton Spain at guard. The Titans haven't allowed a sack in back-to-back games, and Mariota has been sacked just 12 times in nine games.
The Titans were flagged eight times for 57 yards, and some of them were especially costly. And yes, some of them were very questionable as well. Time and again the Titans were flagged on third down, which negated defensive stops. Perhaps the biggest came when safety Da'Norris Searcy was called for holding on 3rd and goal from the 1 on a play when defensive lineman Jurrell Casey recorded a sack. The Chargers scored a touchdown on the next play. It stung.
Byard stands out**
Rookie safety Kevin Byard continues to earn more playing time, and I thought he really played well on Sunday. Byard made a nice break-up on third down while defending Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, and he also made a nice tackle near the goal line during a defensive stand. He showed up on special teams. Byard is surely kicking himself for allowing Melvin Gordon to escape his grasp on the 47-yard run late, but his impact is being felt. He was credited with nine tackles against the Chargers.
Team has fight**
I've now been to San Diego six times to see the Titans play the Chargers, and the team is 0-6 in those contests. But I noticed something different about this year's team. It's a resilient bunch. Yes, the team hurt itself with costly turnovers, and the slow start was, well, bad. But after falling behind 16-0, the Titans got off the mat. They refused to be buried, and that's more than I could say after previous trips out West, when the Titans were outscored by an average of 33-13 in those five games to the Chargers. The big key now is how the Titans will respond on Sunday against the Packers. It's a huge game.
The Tennessee Titans take on the San Diego Chargers in Week 9 action at Qualcomm Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)