Titans come back in fourth, can’t hold on, fall to Raiders, 24-21

For a brief moment, it seemed like the Titans had recovered from a double-digit deficit in the second half to come away with their first home win in over a season. Marcus Mariota found Jalston Fowler in the end zone to take a 21-17 lead with 4:41 to play, and all that they needed was a defensive stop. A stop they appeared to get after Raiders quarterback Derek Carr misfired on third and fourth downs. But a defensive penalty gave the Raiders new life, Carr found an open receiver in the end zone, and the final drive ended with Mariota’s second ugly interception of the game and a 24-21 Tennessee loss to drop the Titans to 2-9 on the season.

Oakland clearly had the better of the play in taking a 10-6 lead after the opening drive of the second half. The Raiders moved the ball better, especially on third downs, and the Titans couldn’t take advantage of some of the breaks and potential breaks they got. The rains came in the second half, but it didn’t bother either offense, as they each managed touchdown drives on their opening possession of the second half. The Titans got the first break big of the game at 17-14, when Oakland fumbled the kickoff. They couldn’t manage a first down, though, as a Delanie Walker penalty made it third-and-19 and Mariota misread the coverage and threw an ugly interception to it a 3-point deficit.

Punts ensued until 9:00 remained in the game. Carr fumbled a snap from backup center Tony Bergstrom, DaQuan Jones recovered, and the Titans had their second-best field position of the day at the Oakland 42. The Titans offense had their first non-penalty third down conversions of the half, first to Antonio Andrews on a pass (see the Raiders’ weakness against RBs in coverage I noted pregame), and then a successful run by fullback Jalston Fowler on third-and-1. Mariota’s high throw for Harry Douglas on third down inside the 10 drew another flag, and then he hit Fowler for the potential game-winning TD that was not to be.

The game was quite a bit sloppier than that, so I’ll try not to make sense of it in the immediate aftermath and head into the notes and miscellaneous observations.

  • Mariota finished 17/37 for 218 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, plus one carry for 7 yards. Ugly day statistically, particularly the completion percentage, redeemed somewhat by the three scores.
  • The Raiders were credited with a pass defensed on 12 of Mariota’s 20 incompletions. Corner David Amerson had 6 by himself.
  • The first interception: I think Mariota misread the corner’s movement, expecting him to stay in man coverage on the outside receiver instead of sitting down. If so, good call by the Raiders. Kendall Wright also needed to do a better job of getting to that spot.
  • The second, game-ending interception: I think he was trying to hit Wright up the seam, after he gave slot corner D.J. Hayden an out fake, but Wright didn’t fight through the contact (which appeared to come about 5.5-6 yards downfield and could’ve been flagged). Mike Mularkey indicated postgame Mariota threw to the right spot on both interceptions, and Wright took responsibility for the second one after the game.
  • Delanie Walker caught 6 of the 8 passes thrown his way for 91 yards, including a 36-yarder that set up the first score. Mariota officially completed 6 of 20 targets for wide receivers, though the defensive penalties improve that number somewhat.
  • The Titans’ run-pass ratio today was very Whisenhunt-like, with 39 pass plays and 17 runs. Given those 17 runs gained just 37 yards, it’s hard for me to be too too critical of that. Antonio Andrews’ only consistent success came on third quarter TD drive that made it 17-14; he was 4-24 that possession and 7-8 the rest of the day. David Cobb had 3 carries for 8 yards. Kendall Wright had two ugly carries, one on an end-around and the other on a reverse off a Harry Douglas end-around, for -4 yards.
  • Oakland kept trying to run, especially holding a slim lead in the second half as the rain fell, but without much success. Latavius Murray finished with 59 yards on 22 carries.
  • Avery Williamson was credited with 11 tackles (7 solo) to lead the team, and also had the Titans’ only sack.
  • Perrish Cox was credited with 3 passes defensed and is clearly the Titans’ best corner. He also had an ugly whiff on Raiders receiver Seth Roberts’ third quarter touchdown, when he had a chance to stop him short of the sticks on third down.
  • Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson are still Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Both Roberts and Amari Cooper had over 100 yards receiving.
  • Tre McBride only had the chance to return one kick, which he did for 31 yards. Looked good, too. I did not notice him in the game on offense, though I was distracted at times in the second half and could have missed him on the field.
  • Byron Bell left the game for a play, but I don’t think the Titans had any injuries beyond that. Jamon Meredith played right tackle that snap.
  • Big play that may get lost in the shuffle of the fourth quarter lead changes: the Raiders were flagged for roughing Brett Kern on a second quarter punt. After the drive was extended, Mariota was sacked on third-and-9 from the Oakland 31. Mike Mularkey passed on the potential 55-yard field goal attempt (no issues with that decision in a 7-6 game on a soggy field). In a 3-point game, taking that sack potentially cost the Titans 3 points.
  • The end of the first half sequence… David Bass had a chance to intercept Carr on second-and-goal from the 7. Oakland finished with a field goal. The Titans got the ball at their 26 down 10-6 with :55 to play and no timeouts. Mariota hit Dorial Green-Beckham for a first down, then Walker for a 9-yard gain. Under time pressure, he spiked the ball. The third down pass was incomplete, and Mularkey had a tough call on fourth-and-1 at the OAK43 with :10 to play. He chose to go for it-itself not obviously a bad decision, but not really in keeping with his overall conservatism. Mariota’s pass was broken up, and the Raiders (who had two timeouts left) had a chance to get another score. Jack Del Rio passed up a potential 65-yard field goal attempt (what I really wanted to see) for a goofy lateral attempt. Roberts caught a short pass, ran down to the TEN18, then ran backwards(!) to about the TEN35 before starting a lateralfest that went nowhere closer to the goalline. Amusing sequence.
  • I’m reserving comment on Quinton Spain’s play at left guard until I get a look at the all-22. I’m bad enough at evaluating linemen, I don’t need to try to do it live when I’m not concentrating on their play at all. He was flagged for holding twice, including on Wright’s “burn this play” reverse.

Snap report Monday, and I’ll try to stomach watching this team again enough to write at least on overview of Spain’s play during the week.