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The Tennessee Titans faced off Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a battle of 5-0 teams. The Titans were taken to task in the first half, down 24-7 at the half. They would come back, getting to within three points in the fourth quarter but after a missed Stephen Gostkowski field goal late in the game, the Titans would fall 27-24, giving them their first loss of the season.
After the game, there were many talking negatively about the Titans defense. They gave up 24 first-half points and for that, they earned some of the negative talk. Looking at the game, there was some positive to actually go along with that negative as well.
One sore spot for the Titans that showed up was tackling. Usually that happens when someone is not solid in their fundamentals and is out of control. Plenty of times, the Titans had the Steelers dead to rights only to miss the tackle which resulted into a positive gain instead of a tackle for loss.
Along with not tackling well, the Titans defensive backs took some poor angles when covering receivers in man-to-man. The two biggest examples happened when cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph and Tye Smith each had wide receiver Diontae Johnson in man-to-man on third down.
Both times, the Titans blitzed (which was a mistake on third down with a long distance to go) and left Joseph and Smith in man-to-man. In both instances, Johnson ran a slant, and both times, the defender tried to beat him to a spot when they were not close enough to do so. Because both of them did not stay on the outside shoulder of Johnson when he ran the slant, it allowed him to pivot to the outside of them, outflanking Joseph and Smith.
Johnson was able to score an easy touchdown on Joseph and convert a third and long for a first down. Being out of position and undisciplined can hurt Tennessee.
Those two things along with no pressure on the quarterback were not good but all is not lost this season. Despite all the bad that happened Sunday, the Titans were able to fight themselves back into the game.
The way they did so was two-fold. The Titans actually sured up their tackling in the second half. That alone, limited the Steelers but Tennessee did something else they haven’t done this year.
Tennessee have been an opportunistic defense and they have ridden that all year and in the second half of the game, that was on full display. The Titans intercepted Roethlisberger three times on this past Sunday. One of the interceptions was on a hail mary at the end of the first half but the other two were from the Titans deflecting passes and intercepting them.
The Titans currently rank third in the NFL with 12 turnovers forced (nine of those being interceptions) and with them being able to force some turnovers, that allowed them to get back in the game.
Once known as just a solid defense, the Titans now they have transcended to an opportunistic one in just a year. In some instances, that can be a good thing but in other instances like Sunday, it can be a bad thing.
Both halves of football this past Sunday versus the Steelers showed the potential they have and also displayed just how bad they can be. With the season almost to the halfway point, the Titans need to find their identity defensively (and find a consistent pass rush) and do so fast if they have any hope of wanting to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.