Yesterday’s loss to the struggling Arizona Cardinals was almost inevitable for the Tennessee Titans. A year where every phase of the team’s off-season experienced regression saw this was coming. Marcus Mariota struggled to get double digits on the board, appeared visibly frustrated as the Titans came back to earth. They sit at 8-5 and their easy schedule has evaporated as has their division lead. The Jaguars control the AFC South and the Titans are experiencing a regression to the mean.
The 12-7 loss was emblematic of all the Titans struggles this year. Mariota had another game with a bad interception. The offense failed to execute and now have to understand why winning ugly isn’t a suitable strategy. They were 4-0 in games decided by four points or less. Suddenly the Titans can’t rely on their magic horseshoe to save them.
On the plus side, this regression did not extend to the defense. They held backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the Arizona offense to four field goals. Gabbert was sacked eight times but the Tennesse offense prevented the Titans from getting the win. Mariota took the blame but this regression runs far deeper. Mike Mularkey failed after fourteen weeks to develop a creative game plan. He assumes that Mariota will always be able to buy time and eventually find tight end Delanie Walker in the end zone.
Wins will be tough going forward. The Niners are 2-0 with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback are suddenly a tough out. The Rams are one of the best teams in the NFC, and the Jaguars have found balance. The Titans are likely to still make the playoffs but they won’t make it much further. Perhaps it would be more beneficial for them to miss the playoffs. It would allow management to assess the team in an honest way. They can’t possibly see the offense as presently constituted and believe the Mularkey era should continue without consequence.