The real deal
Despite his success in training camp and the preseason, it was still easy to punch holes in Marcus Mariota's game. The message from his critics was understandable -- Mariota's a rookie, and NFL defenses hold back in the preseason. It was tough to criticize Mariota after his near flawless performance on Sunday, however. Mariota posted a perfect passer rating while throwing four touchdowns against the Bucs. No, Mariota isn't going to look like he did against Tampa Bay every week. But it's already evident the Titans might have a special player on their hands.
The slant pattern Mariota and receiver Kendall Wright connected with for the game's first touchdown was a thing of beauty. It's a play the two perfected during training camp, as many fans could probably attest to. Already, Mariota and Wright have developed a chemistry that's on point. It led to Wright's four-catch, 101-yard performance on Sunday in Tampa Bay, and it could be a sign of big things to come this season.
Running back Bishop Sankey struggled out of the gate during his rookie season, and he never really got on track during a year when the Titans played from behind in most games. It's already evident Sankey benefited from having a complete offseason under his belt. Sankey ran hard on Sunday. He finished with 74 yards on just 12 carries, including a one-yard TD run. His best run of the game was a 16-yarder when he churned out extra yards. Sankey also scored on a 12-yard touchdown catch.
It's tough to play with a swagger when you're playing catch-up football, something the Titans did most of last season. The Titans got a lead on Sunday, and the defense played with emotion, and an attitude. Linebacker Derrick Morgan had two sacks, and defensive linemen Jurrell Casey and Angelo Blackson also got in on the action. Linebacker Zach Brown also came up with some big stops, including a big hit on quarterback Jameis Winston. Even more noticeable was the gang tackling. The Bucs were just 3-of-14 on third down (21%).
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt and Co. put together a solid plan on both sides of the ball to beat the Bucs. Whisenhunt's biggest call of the game might've been his challenge midway through the second quarter when Tampa Bay was threatening to get back into the game. After falling behind 21-0, the Bucs made it 21-7. Tampa Bay was driving when officials awarded Buccaneers running back Doug Martin a first down on a 4th and 1 carry. Whisenhunt challenged the spot, and the call was reversed. The Titans scored nine plays later, and it was essentially game ove
There were plenty of reasons to celebrate following Sunday's win. The offense looked sharp, the defense showed some spunk the Titans won in convincing fashion on a day when their AFC South brethren laid eggs. But the Titans were low-key in their approach afterward. In fact, second-year player Taylor Lewan and several others made it clear the team is keeping things in perspective. Losing 14 of 15 games after last year's win in Kansas City is still fresh in the minds of many Titans, and that's probably a good thing.