NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Here's a look at six things that stood out in Sunday's 14-13 loss to the Bills.
Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey blamed himself for allowing Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to scramble for a first down on 3rd-and-24 late. I say it can't be all on Casey. The Titans just can't allow that play to happen under any scenario, and it was the turning point. What I noticed even more about Casey was how he played with all-out effort from beginning to end. He was disruptive vs. the run and a terror rushing the quarterback. On a field with plenty of defensive stars on Sunday, Casey stood out the most.
Casey wasn't the only one pointing the finger at himself after Sunday's loss. Left tackle Taylor Lewan took ownership of his penalties – he continues to get flagged for hands to the face infractions – and quarterback Marcus Mariota beat himself up for his late INT. To a man, the Titans have been good about owning mistakes during the three-game losing skid. Accountability is a good trait for a young team to have, because it builds camaraderie. I believe this is a team that's working together, but the Titans need to find a way to win some games to keep the mood from getting sour.
The Titans had a chance to bury the Bills early. At the end of the first half, Tennessee's last play from scrimmage on five of its six drives looked like this: BUF 36, BUF 48, BUF 3, TEN 45 and BUF 38. The Titans ended up punting on four of those drives, and they kicked a field goal when they got to the 3. Instead of being way up, the Titans led just 3-0 after a half when Buffalo's drive starts looked like this: BUF 11, BUF 11, BUF 20, BUF 20 and BUF 8. While the Titans lost the lead in the fourth quarter, they lost the game because of missed opportunities in the first half.
Everyone had been waiting for Mariota to change games with his legs, and the Titans rookie quarterback did that on Sunday. Mariota ran for 23 yards on one designed run, and he scrambled for more yards on his most productive day running the football to date as a Titan. The Titans need to take advantage of Mariota's legs even more moving forward, but Mariota also needs to do a better job of steering clear from big hits. He got leveled on one run in the middle of the field.
The Titans caught a huge break when the Bills were called for offsides on the opening kickoff. If not, the Bills would've gotten the ball at the Titans 2-yard line after Bishop Sankey muffed the catch. Following a Buffalo touchdown in the second half, it happened again. Sankey muffed the catch, and the Titans ended up starting at their own 5. Dexter McCluster eventually replaced Sankey deep. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he thought the sun might've been in Sankey's eyes, and he noted catching the ball on kickoffs had not cropped up as an issue in practices. Whatever the case, the Titans can't afford to let faux pas like these happen.
The Titans didn't bump linebacker Zach Brown for Wesley Woodyard because of Brown's controversial tweet following the team's loss to Indianapolis. Brown was demoted because of some inconsistent play of late, and because Woodyard is considered a better tackler in the run game. I thought Woodyard responded well against the Bills. He turned in a solid outing by tying for the team lead with nine tackles. Brown, meanwhile, was flagged for a couple of penalties.