Following a dismal performance against the Minnesota Vikings, the 1 and 5 Titans were forced to return back to Nashville on short week to face the Pittsburgh Steelers for Thursday Night Football. Not surprisingly, the Titans were labeled an underdog and little hope was given for a victory against a Steelers team with struggles of its own. Could the Titans offense get any semblance of a balanced game going? Would the real Chris Johnson please stand up? Let's take a look.
Matt Hasselbeck has struggled since replacing the injured Jake Locker but overall I think his performance Thursday night was good. He was 25 of 44 for 290 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Unfortunately for Hasselbeck, his wide receivers dropped several passes which should have been caught. If the ball hits you in the hands that is a ball you should catch. Kenny Britt was the prime offender but he wasn't alone.
The running game is definitely improved and Chris Johnson finished with respectable numbers. He ran for 91 yards on 19 carries with a 4.8 YPC. At times he is willing to hit the gap and earn the tough runs but he still dances around too much at times and his indecisiveness causes him to miss opportunities for longer runs. Still it is nice to see a much improved performance from him compared to last season.
With Javon Ringer still recovering from a knee injury, second year running back Jamie Harper was active and he made the most of his opportunities. While he only got 2 carries, one was a goal line situation and he showed his strength by powering through the Steelers defense to score a touchdown. He earned every single bit of it too.
I like Harper and hope to see more of him in the games to come.
Overall, I thought the offensive line did a good job blocking in the running game.
The offensive line still struggles to recognize and contain a 3/4 defensive scheme where the linebackers stunt and come through the gap from the opposite direction. The Titans struggled with this against the Texans and the Steelers used Lawrence Timmons very effectively to create havoc against the offensive line. Leroy Harris was his primary victim and Harris just doesn't seem to me to play as powerfully as he did when he first cracked the starting lineup.
He wasn't alone however.
The good news is that Chris Johnson and Jared Cook are both doing a much better job picking up their blocking assignments. They both still need some work there but i see marked improvement.
Taylor Thompson just gets better every game. He is also doing a great job blocking.
I really like the Titans wide receivers and they did appear to play with more fire and physicality against the Steelers but consistency is key and they simply need to be more consistent catching the football.
It's great to see Kenny Britt back on the field and he obviously is a difference maker but he simply cannot keep dropping passes.
Kendall Wright made an excellent decision to get out of bounds at the end of the first half to set up the Titans field goal. Unfortunately, he also dropped a pass that should have been caught.
After struggling in early games it was nice to see the Titans offense put forth such a balanced effort. The improvement can be seen most in the time of possession which was almost equal with the Steelers holding the ball 29:57 and the Titans 30:03. Let's hope this improvement carries into the remaining schedule.