NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Here's a look at six things that stood out from Sunday's 35-33 loss to the Colts:
It sounds crazy, but the Titans blew their opportunity to put the Colts away in the third quarter, during a 15-minute span when they outscored Indianapolis 17-0. Leading 24-14 and with a first-and-goal at Indy's 1-yard line, the Titans only came away with a field goal. After a Marcus Mariota pass fell incomplete, running backs Antonio Andrews and Bishop Sankey both failed to reach pay dirt, and the Titans were forced to settle for a field goal. So instead of it being 31-14 late in the third quarter, Colts still had a glimmer of hope with the stop, down only two scores at 27-14. It came back to haunt the Titans.
With Mariota, the Titans are never out of a game. Mariota has the ability to lead a comeback, under pressure. He proved it again on Sunday when he directed a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the closing minutes to give the Titans in a chance to tie it and force overtime. Mariota has guts, there's no question about it. His third-and-10 throw to tight end Delanie Walker was huge on the final drive, and he made a heck of an athletic play when he slung the ball to Dorial Green-Beckham while on the move. Mariota hasn't been perfect, but he's a talented leader who sure makes things exciting.
The Titans fell behind 21-0 in Cleveland in Week 2, and they found themselves trailing 14-0 out of the gate on Sunday because of some costly errors. Andrews dropped a third-down pass that ended the team's first drive, and a drop by the usually sure-handed Harry Douglas led to another early three-and-out and put the Titans in an early funk. Also, a touchdown run by Andrews was called back because of a holding call against rookie tackle Jeremiah Poutasi. The Titans committed six penalties for 55 yards against the Colts, and right now the team isn't good enough to survive a whole lot of blunders.
Fullback Jalston Fowler plowed over defenders on a one-yard touchdown with 47 seconds left, and after an Indianapolis penalty gave the Titans the ball at the 1-yard line for the two-point try, I expected to see Fowler again, and did. The play got blown up, of course, and the Titans lost. It's easy to second-guess the play call afterward, following a failed attempt. Personally, I liked the call, considering Fowler's success on similar opportunities, and because of what coach Ken Whisenhunt said – it was about establishing a mindset as a hard-nosed football team. The Titans failed in the execution, and now have to live with the consequences. If Mariota had thrown an incompletion on a one-yard pass, however, I imagine a few folks would've questioned that decision, too.
DGB deserves opportunities**
There's nothing timid about rookie receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. When he gets opportunites, he attacks the football, and catches it cleanly. He doesn't get pushed around. After getting limited opportunities in the first three games, I think the Titans should increase DGB's workload. The guy has two touchdown catches already, and he made a big play down the stretch on Sunday. Yes, the Titans have some veterans in front of him, but Green-Beckham is as physically talented as any of them, and he's making a case for himself to be on the field with some big plays.
Killer instinct needed
The Titans are playing with a nastier attitude on the defensive side of the football these days, and with a lot of effort. Defenders are getting to the quarterback, knocking down footballs, and across the board are playing a more aggressive brand of football. But the Titans need to develop a killer instinct on D. After getting back into last week's game at Cleveland, the Titans allowed a late bomb from Johnny Manziel to connect for a score. On Sunday, the Titans failed to land the knockout punch on defense against the Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck. Yes, the most glaring play at the end was the failed two-point try, but the Titans allowed too many big plays down the stretch.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Indianapolis Colts in their Week 3 home opener at Nissan Stadium (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)