Arthur Smith: The Titans’ MVP vs. The Atlanta Falcons

The Tennessee Titans entered Sunday afternoon in need of a win. Just as much as they were in need of a win, they were in need of their offense to show up.

In the last two games, quarterback Marcus Mariota had been a man on the run, constantly running from defenders in the backfield. Along with him holding the football too long at times and missing open receivers, there wasn’t much hope for optimism coming into this game.

With the Atlanta Falcons needing a win as well, there were thoughts that their defense would be revved up to bring havoc this game. Instead of getting pressure all game from the Falcons, the Titans’ offense came out and attacked the Falcons in the first half, getting 24 points on the board.

Aside from the points, the team just looked crisper and more prepared on the offensive side of the ball. While people will rush to give credit to Mariota and receivers A.J. Brown and Corey Davis, the real MVP of this game has to be Titans’ first-year offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

Over the last two weeks leading into this game, Mariota had been running for his life behind this offensive line. With the Titans missing a few starters up front, Smith was still trying to have Mariota take deep drops to set up passes.

The results have been Mariota getting sacked at a high rate, offensive linemen getting ran past and the passing game not being as potent as it could be. It may have take a while for Smith to make the adjustments to help Mariota and the offensive line in that aspect but today showed his countermoves to the offensive issues.

Instead of the deep drops, the Titans went with quicker set-ups for Mariota. The result was less time for the Falcons to get to him, resulting in no sacks for the Falcons. For the Titans to give up no sacks after giving up nine the previous week to the Jacksonville Jaguars is truly a turnaround many did not expect to see.

While Smith made it easy for his offensive line, he also made things a little easier for his quarterback. For most of the season, Mariota has not looked comfortable in the pocket. He has held on to the football too long at times and has also taken his eyes off open receivers.

The result of some of that has meant errant passes and missed opportunities. In this game versus the Falcons, the short drops and quicker routes allowed him to see things a little clearer and quicker than before.

The quicker drops led to the ball coming out faster and it also led to Mariota knowing what he wanted to do with the football. Hiss confidence clearly grew as the first half went on and it showed with his precision passing.

For example, the second touchdown pass that A.J. Brown caught in the game was a beautifully thrown pass to the outside right shoulder where only he could catch it. Without his confidence being high, Mariota would probably not have been able to make that throw. Smith set that up and he deserves the credit.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see what happens with the Titans’ offense. Will Smith keep up the pace or will he fall back into the doldrums of the previous two games?

A very good Buffalo Bills’ defense coming to town next weekend. The Titans will need to be on top of their game again on the offensive side of the ball and Arthur Smith will definitely need to be dialed in.


Mike Patton

Nashville, Tennessee

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