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New Orleans — The Tennessee Titans entered the opening week of the season with plenty of optimism, but also a plethora of questions. They faced a team in the New Orleans Saints whom like Tennessee had been a good team that had a rough 2022 season, and was looking to bounce back in 2023.
The game started on a high note for Tennessee as they came out and forced a turnover on the opening kickoff. Starting safety Amani Hooker ripped the ball from Saints return man Rashid Shaheed to give the Titans great field position. Despite that, the Titans would only manage a field goal to go up 3-0. That would set the tone as for most of the game it looked like Tennessee and New Orleans were in lock step with each other, trading field goals and punts on their early drives.
The Saints seemed like they found a groove near the end of the first half, driving down to the Tennessee 31 yard line. Derek Carr, who was an impressive 4-4 on the drive, would be picked off by Hooker on a pass intended for tight end Juwan Johnson.
Tennessee would go into halftime with a 9-6 lead and what seemed like the momentum.
Coming out of halftime the Titans would begin their descent. Tennessee would suffer two interceptions and a punt on their first three drives of the second half. Ryan Tannehill looked uncomfortable in the pocket, and seemed out of sync with his receivers. New Orleans would capitalize on the Titans’ misfortune and score 10 unanswered points to go up 16-9 with a quarter to go. Tennessee would force a three and out on the Saints’ first fourth quarter possession, but only managed a field goal on their ensuing drive. The Titans’ defense would not be able to get a stop and go on to lose 16-15 on Sunday.
The Tennessee Titans were uncharacteristically sloppy on Sunday. They had four penalties for a total of 45 yards, as well as a blocked punt that resulted in a score for New Orleans.
The offense looked chaotic but there were bright spots. The running game looked strong with Derrick Henry and Tyjae Spears both posting over 4.5 yards per carry. The passing game will need time to gel but the signs of good things are there. Tim Kelly schemed open three possible touchdowns that were overthrown by Tannehill, who didn’t have his best day. The 11 year veteran had his worst game as a Tennessee Titan, throwing three interceptions and posting a 28.8 Passer rating.
Tannehill and new addition DeAndre Hopkins seemed to be trying to get on the same page all game with only a few pass attempts getting to the veteran receiver. All three of Tannehill’s interceptions came on passes to Hopkins. One in particular was in the third quarter on a deep out to Hopkins: had Tannehill looked to his third read he would have seen Treylon Burks who was wide open on the backside.
The Titans defense came to play, as many thought this unit would. The run defense and pass rush is as ferocious as ever, as the front seven got to Derek Carr multiple times on Sunday afternoon. The secondary will need to clean up some things though. They got jumbled up on some key third downs and seemed to have some issues with identifying assignments. This will be something to watch as the season goes on. New defensive backs coach Chris Harris will have his fair share of tape and mistakes to correct before week 2.
-Offensive line play was solid: run lanes were there.
-Defensive front seven is stout: Titans should rank in the tops of the league again in run defense.
-Tim Kelly’s play calls were balanced: mixed up the first down calls rather than running the ball every first down.
-Offense was unable to capitalize on good field position.
-Turnovers and penalties killed drives.
-Offense failed to exploit opponent’s weak areas.
-Defensive secondary’s lack of awareness.
The Titans will host the L.A. Chargers on Sunday. They will have a chance at redemption and to get back to even at home. The Chargers boast one the league’s most explosive offenses, and Tennessee will need to score to keep up. This will be a winnable game though as the Titans are at home, and the Chargers are coming off a loss to the Miami Dolphins.