Over the last two seasons, the Tennessee Titans have been a mess, with the exception of Week 1, where they surprisingly overwhelmed the opposition before reverting to playing terrible football for the rest of the season. Given the adversity the Minnesota Vikings were facing before the game, an upset would not have been surprising.
The Titans played much better than the 25-16 final score indicated but were done in by a combination of poor coaching decisions and mental mistakes.
Although Minnesota making the playoffs in 2015 while Tennessee ended the year as the worst team in football, the game looked to be more competitive on paper due to the Vikings sending out Shaun Hill at quarterback and cornerback Xavier Rhodes being a last-minute inactive.
Adrian Peterson had a frustrating day on the ground, only able to amass 31 yards on 19 carries and Minnesota failed to reach the end zone in three trips. Additionally, Blair Walsh kicked poorly, missing a pair of field goals and an extra point.
But as bad as the Vikings offense was, Tennessee was never able to capitalize. After spending the offseason hyping their new “Exotic Smashmouth” attack led by new running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, the running game churned out just 64 yards.
Both defenses came in with the focus of taking the rushing attack away and succeeded in doing so, forcing the opposing quarterbacks to put the team on their back. With the pressure on Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, he wilted. The game’s momentum took a monumental shift when Mariota made a poor pass to Harry Douglas while avoiding a sack on 2nd down. The pass was snatched by Eric Kendricks, who ran 77 yards down the field for a defensive touchdown which put Minnesota in the lead for good.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 11, 2016
Two drives later, another mistake by Mariota led to a defensive touchdown. While faking a handoff to Murray, Mariota lost the ball, which was scooped up by Danielle Hunter who scored.
Despite the lack of success on the ground, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey continued to make predictable or just plain bad calls. On a 3rd and 1, Mariota faked a quarterback sneak before pitching the ball to Henry, who was swallowed up behind the line by the Vikings defense.
Mariota was again treated with training wheels, as Mularkey never opened up the passing game further than intermediate routes. With the Titans never exploring the entire field, their offense was predictable and a good defense like Minnesota feasted on it.
As Tennessee prepares for Detroit, they need to make their offense less predictable.