NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Here’s a look at six things that stood out for the Titans in their 24-20 win over the Bengals:
Mariota’s poiseHey, it’s not like we hadn’t seen Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota work under high pressure situations in the past. But for the third time this season and the seventh time in his young career, Mariota engineered a game-winning drive for the Titans. Mariota didn’t flinch while driving the Titans 73 yards on 12 plays, in just over four minutes. Even after he was shaken up after being tackled from behind, Mariota kept calm, and then delivered a game-winning touchdown pass to running back DeMarco Murray with 36 seconds left.
Defense, Defense, Defense
I thought the defense played a huge role in keeping the Titans in control most of the game. Ten of Cincinnati’s 13 drives were four plays or less, and nine of them went 16 yards or fewer. Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan recovered two fumbles (one forced on a Brian Orakpo sack), held the Bengals to 1-of-10 on third down, and cornerbacks made plays all over the field. We can’t ignore the two big plays made by the Bengals – a 37-yard catch by Brandon Lafell and the 70-yard TD by A.J. Green late. But cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan kept coming up big in the secondary, with help around them.
Adoree’ Jackson’s ValueIt was a heck of a day – and a busy one — for the rookie Jackson, who played well on defense – and offense – in addition to his work on special teams. Jackson had three rushes for 30 yards, including another 20-yard bolt. But he impacted plays when he never touched the football, like Mariota’s 28-yard run, and a beautifully executed play that resulted in a throw to a wide open Rishard Matthews, who was streaking toward the end zone. Jackson ended up playing 49 of the team’s snaps on defense, along with seven snaps on offense. He also handled things in the return game.
The pass to Matthews, of course, resulted in drop. The usually sure-handed Matthews let the ball bounce off his hands, or he would’ve scored a touchdown. The Titans lost a chance for six more points later when rookie receiver Corey Davis lost the football as he made his way into the end zone. If the Titans make those plays, they probably wouldn’t have had to sweat out the ending.
Brett Kern’s punting
I could probably list Brett Kern in here every week, because the Titans punter continues to impact games. Kern, who leads the NFL in punting average, had another monstrous game on Sunday. Kern averaged a whopping 56.5 yards per punt, and a 42.2-yard net. He had a booming 74-yard punt at a critical time. His average was the second-highest of his career (56.8 vs. Seattle on Sept. 24, 2017), and ranked fifth in franchise history (minimum four punts). His net would’ve been even better if Tye Smith would’ve been able to get a handle on the football near the goal line.Red zone success
The Titans were a mess in the red zone earlier this season, ranked 31st in the NFL heading into Week 9. But my how things have changed. For the second week in a row, the Titans were a perfect 3-of-3 in the red zone, scoring three touchdowns – two on runs by Murray, and the third on a Murray catch and score. The team is now 6-of-6 in the red zone in the last two weeks, and Sunday’s performance came against a Cincinnati defense that entered the game ranked No.1 in the NFL in red zone D. And the Titans are now ranked 10th in the NFL inside the 20.