Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Six things standing out for the Titans after Sunday’s comeback win over the Jets, and heading into Thursday’s game against the Jaguars at Nissan Stadium.
Say what you want about Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota’s performance at the beginning of Sunday’s game. Mariota threw a pick-6 early, and at the half he had just 62 passing yards. But Mariota once again rose to the occasion in crunch time. Mariota guided the 12th game-winning drive of his career, and the eighth in the past two seasons, as the Titans rallied for the win. Mariota gets it done when the game is on the line.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel proved on Sunday he’s not afraid to make changes. Vrabel pulled guard Quinton Spain from the lineup when Corey Levin entered the game at center, and Ben Jones bounced to left guard — Spain’s spot. It remains to be seen what happens from here, and who will line up where when the Jaguars visit. But it’s clear Vrabel recognized something needed to be done in the moment to shake things up on the o-line. Will he continue to tinker with the lineup?
Derrick Henry’s Physicality
Following a bruising second half run, Titans running back Derrick Henry was greeted by Vrabel as he made his way back to the sideline. Vrabel shook hands with Henry, and told him he loved how he was playing — with a physical presence. Henry has been a different back in the second half of the season. He’s been decisive, physical, and much more effective. I suspect we’re going to see more of him moving forward. Let’s not forget Henry has had some big moments against the Jaguars.
The Titans miss Delanie Walker, there’s no getting around it. But the team has received solid play from the position in recent weeks, starting with Jonnu Smith. While Smith had a solid day against the Jets, it was tight end Anthony Firkser who really rose to the occasion, and into the spotlight, especially in big moments. Firsker caught a 12-yard touchdown pass in the first half, and he had a big 25-yard catch to set up the game-winning touchdown catch by Corey Davis.
Return of the Defense
Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees blamed himself for subpar outings at Indianapolis and Houston. His health forced him to leave the Colts game early, and caused him to miss practice time leading up to the game vs. the Texans. The Titans looked more like themselves against the Jets, repeatedly forcing field goals. If not for some defensive stops throughout the contest, the Titans wouldn’t have been in a position to come back. Now, the defense needs to rise up again vs a Jaguars team that gets back Leonard Fournette.
Titans receivers were guilty of plenty of drops early in the season, but the group has settled down. What I really liked about Sunday is how everyone contributed. Davis, of course, provided his second game-winning catch of the season. But receiver Taywan Taylor stepped up with a pair of long grabs on a day when he finished with 104 receiving yards. Tajae Sharpe also provided a big spark, and finished with three catches for 51 yards. The Titans will need the group to be good against a feisty Jacksonville secondary.