NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Six thoughts after Sunday's 27-10 loss to the Panthers.Panthers are better
Hey, sometimes you just have to give credit where it's due. The better football team won on Sunday at Nissan Stadium. Right now, the Panthers are built to win. It's why they're 9-0, and why many believe they're the best team in the NFC. Watching them up close, they remind me of the 1999 Titans. They're gritty, and good enough to grind out victories, even if they don't blow you away from a statistical standpoint. Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey said himself the Panthers are a team the Titans would like to "evolve into." But the Titans aren't there yet.
Titans were right to be ticked**
I don't think Cam Newton is a bad guy. But his antics on Sunday were overboard, and I don't blame Titans linebackers Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard one bit for letting Newton know about it. Yes, I get it – the best way to keep a guy from celebrating is by keeping him out of the end zone. But no one likes to get shown up, and Newton's prolonged celebrations crossed the line. If Newton wants to give the football to a fan, go for it. But he should cut back on his silly shenanigans and act like he's been there. That's one big difference between these Panthers and the '99 Titans – Steve McNair loved flashing the Q-Dog sign after a score, but that was about it.
Williamson was everywhere
It's no surprise Williamson was the first guy to let Newton know he didn't care for his showboating – he was the first defender to the ball most of the day. Williamson was credited with 16 tackles -- nine solos and seven assists -- on Sunday, along with a ½ sack and three tackles for a loss. Williamson is physical, and he plays with passion every Sunday. In just his second NFL season, he's a good young player who is just going to keep getting better. I'm not going to ignore Wesley Woodyard here either – he had 10 stops.
Offense is inconsistent
The mark of a good offense is it can produce week in, and week out. The Titans haven't proven they can do that so far. After a 42-point performance in the season opener at Tampa Bay, the Titans stumbled the following week in Cleveland. After a 34-point output against the Saints last week, the Titans were lackluster on Sunday. The Titans couldn't get anything going in the running game (21 carries, 64 yards), and they were too sloppy in the passing game with drops, off-target throws and inconsistencies across the board. Despite some flashes of brilliancy from rookie QB Marcus Mariota and the offense, the Titans remain a work in progress.
Riggs is a tough cookie**
I've liked the look of undrafted cornerback Cody Riggs since training camp, and he keeps impressing me. Riggs didn't back down when he squared off against Falcons receiver Julio Jones earlier this season, and with the team's top corners sidelines on Sunday, he held his own again in just 20 snaps. Riggs was solid in coverage against the Panthers when Newton went after him on a third down throw, and he stepped up to drop receiver Jerricho Cotchery for a two-yard loss after a catch on another play. Riggs is showing he's a nice find. B.W. Webb has also impressed me.
Mularkey's not fooling around
He's 1-1 as interim coach, but I have to applaud Mularkey for how he's doing his best to make the Titans his team while trying to earn the job full-time. Mularkey is clearly doing things his way, and that became evident when he pulled the captain patch off of Taylor Lewan's uniform and gave it to Dexter McCluster. It was a tough call. Every step of the way so far, Mularkey has been up-front, and honest with his answers. He hasn't hesitated in being critical of players, or in making changes. He put Mariota's INT on Dorial Green-Beckham for him failing to run a route full speed. He didn't hesitate in naming Anthony Fasano by name for his critical drop Sunday, and he's made it clear he's not going to let things slide on his watch. Mularkey is going to hold guys accountable. Time will tell if his approach produces more wins down the stretch.