The Tennessee Titans pulled out a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in week 10 of the 2017 NFL season. This wasn’t a game without issues, but Marcus Mariota did make some good plays to help lead the to victory. I wrote these articles during the weeks in which it happened, so it may seem a bit dated now. I had trouble launching my site, therefore delayed. I’m posting the weekly articles periodically so they are shown in the archives, so you have reading material while pretending to work at the office.
Tennessee Titans Film Review:
The first play of this game shows why Rishard Matthews is a good player, and under-rated on the national level. Notice the route on this play, because he makes a great attack on the cornerback. He first strides right at the cornerback without giving up his intentions, making his move when the distance between the defender and himself is minimal. The late move causes the defender to turn his hips at a greater angle. Once the hips of the defender have been turned, this come back route is set, because the defender must do a complete 180 degrees turn to keep up, while the runner only needs to turn 90 degrees. This will naturally cause the receiver to win the route, and that is exactly what happens in this case. However, Mariota is late with this pass, because this is a play where the receiver needs to get the ball as soon as he’s coming out of the break. Unfortunately, Mariota is delayed and only starts the throw once he sees Matthews is open on the play. The delay in decision making is an issue for Mariota because the spread system in college is based on reading open receivers, instead of advantageous matchups.
Ok, so this isn’t a passing play, but since it’s Mariota, we shall discuss it here. This part of the game for Mariota has been missing in large chunks, as he hasn’t been running nearly as much as his talent should indicate. On one hand, this is a prudent decision because running quarterbacks tend to have a higher injury rate than pocket passers. However, the threat of running wreaks havoc on the defense because they must dedicate extra players to defend the mobile QB, and has a major effect on the passing game. If you see the tape breakdowns of Lamar Jackson during the draft process soon, you will see more linebackers act as a spy, rather than breaking into coverage, just on the mere threat of Jackson’s running ability. On this play, you will see the defensive end go much further into the backfield than he should, which opens up a lane for Mariota to run through. When Mariota runs behind him, it makes the defense conscious of the possibility of QB runs, and makes them less aggressive, at least in the short term. At the end of this play, Mariota decides to run into a defender instead of going out of bounds. If the team is saving their young QB from injuries by rushing him less, he doesn’t need to take unnecessary risks by taking a hit here. He needs to run out of bounds here since he’s facing three defenders with little chance of breaking inside.
This play is a good example of the threat of run being an avenue for passing lanes. The play action here is what causes the passing lane to be open to Taywan Taylor. When Mariota fakes the hand-off to the running back, the linebackers move up a step, which causes the passing lane to be open, and Mariota makes a nice throw to the rookie receiver. Notice the slot defender on Taylor, because the running back is moving away from him. However, the linebacker steps up because there is a threat and lane for Mariota to run if he chooses, which helps him be drawn towards the line of scrimmage. The run from earlier in the game directly helps set up a pass here.
This looks like a simple play with a one read pass and somewhat standard passing option. However, it’s an intricately designed play designed to take advantage of last minute changes. The first issue here is the receiver is in motion isn’t just a decoy for a run option here, although that doesn’t hurt. When the runner goes in motion, it causes a change in the Bengals defense. For one, when a runner goes in motion with the defender handing off the player to another defender, it usually indicates zone coverage. They move the linebackers over to cover the possible runner/receiver, so the first read on this play is Adam Jones. If Jones goes back with Matthews, then the swing pass to the cutting receiver will be open. If Adam Jones lets Matthews leave behind him, then Matthews is going to be open. In this case, the runner has two massive changes on the defenders. The shift in coverage when the runner goes in motion transfers responsibility towards the linebacker to the left of the formation. Once the runner forces the defender to engage, he no longer can help Jones in defending Matthews, because he has to defend against that receiver becoming a runner. It’s only when noticeably clear that the receiver isn’t going to be executing a run that he moves backwards into coverage. Once the linebacker drops back, it engages Adam Jones as a possible defender for the now receiver, because they are in zone coverage. He can’t aggressively move back with Matthews because the cutting receiver is now a threat for the swing pass. That’s the two-man game the offense is playing with on this play. However, the play goes even more complicated than that, because that late movement has other repercussions. Notice Eric Decker on the other side of the formation, because he’s now matched up late with a defender on a crossing route in zone coverage. If the linebacker that moved to cover the cutting receiver was more aggressive in coming towards the line of scrimmage (thus taking away the swing pass), and Adam Jones stuck with Matthews better, then Decker is going to be wide open on the play. What the Titans did on this play is simple, but complicated in execution. By the runner going in motion, they put three receivers in an area covered by two defenders. It’s a magnificently designed play that works extremely well.
This play highlights a good route from Corey Davis, and shows a decent play set up. The play is set up to go to Davis from the start, because he’s the primary read. Mariota looks at Walker first because it serves the function of an easy pass if it’s available. However, the greater purpose of that look is to hold the safeties in the middle. Notice the spacing of this play, because Walker stops his route to leave open the passing lane to Davis. Jonnu Smith coming out of the backfield as well to draw the linebacker away from the passing lane. Davis runs a very good route here because he’s attacking the defender by going right at him. The direct attack causes the defender, who is reactive by nature most of the time, to decide to defend a portion of the field. In this case, the defender chooses to defend the deep part of the field, therefore he turns his hips to protect the deep route. Once he turns his hip, he can’t defend this come back route, so this is now an easy pass. By the time the defender recovers, Davis has made the catch. While it’s not an issue here because of the wealth of space afforded to Davis, Mariota needs to release the ball a bit early here. Davis needs to get the ball sooner, so he has a better chance to evade the defenders after the catch.
If I complained about Mariota being late on throws earlier in the article, he makes a great read and throw on this play. Essentially, he throws Davis open on this play, because the ball is released before Davis is even going into his break. Davis gets a free release at the line of scrimmage, but this is very good coverage from the defender. He gets a slight push off on the defender, just enough to create separation. However, this is absolutely a beautiful throw made by Mariota and he needs to make these types of reads and throws more often because it’s the next step in his progression.
Why is this incomplete pass in the positive section? It’s situational awareness. The Bengals clearly jumped off-sides, and got called for a penalty, therefore it’s a free play. Many QBs don’t take chances with the deep ball here, rather killing the play or going with their set play. Mariota shows good awareness because he takes the deepest route and fires a shot. It’s a terrible pass that doesn’t give Davis much of a shot, but the awareness is great in this situation. You will regularly see Tom Brady or Drew Brees take advantage of these situations because there isn’t much downside. If the ball is intercepted, then you accept the penalty and continue with the drive. If it’s caught for a long completion, you decline the penalty and take the yards.
This is another great route by Matthews, as well as a good throw by Mariota. We’ve mentioned the hip turning ability of cornerbacks and how it helps receivers separate. On this play, this comeback route or deep route is the exact route that is being defended by the cornerback. Notice the hips, it’s turned towards the sidelines, which means that he’s a 90 degrees turn away from defending the comeback route or the deep route. On the other hand, Mathews has to do a full 180 degrees turn, which would take him longer. Defenders are by nature reactive; therefore, receivers have an inherent advantage in creating separation because they know where they are going. In this case, Adam Jones is trying to take away some of the advantages by reducing his hip rotation time. The Titans are down to the last seconds of the half, therefore Jones isn’t worried about a cut inside since it’ll milk more clock. In a normal time-situation, Jones is highly susceptible to the inside slant route in this position. Matthews still runs an excellent route, and comes back for the ball, and Mariota places it extremely well. This is about as well defended as you can expect from Jones in this instance, yet they still complete the pass for a first down.
This is a major first down in the game, and it’s a good design by the Titans. The offense once again runs three receivers into an area with two defenders, and Mariota is tasked with picking the right choice. He has the safer option in a dump off pass, but hits Decker for the first down. Decker is also aware of his surroundings and notice how he dives for the first down to make sure they convert.
This is a great read by Mariota with the pressure on, as he hits Walker for a major first down. He’s running a crossing route and Mariota hits him perfectly. What is he seeing in the pocket? The hips of the defender, because it’s facing the wrong way. Once Walker makes the cut inside, there is no way the defender can keep up with him because he needs to turn 180 degrees, while Walker maintains forward momentum with a 90 degrees turn. Notice how Mariota starts his throwing motion as soon Walker is even with the defender, because he knows that defender is no longer in the play, but he needs to get the ball out before the other linebacker gets into the throwing lane.
The play ends in an incomplete pass, but it’s a great example of how everything was done correctly, but broken up by a great defensive play. The Titans decide to take a shot at the touchdown with the Bengals in a two-safety look. Matthews is going to split the safeties and Mariota wants to take the shot. A few things are interesting to look at on this play. One, notice the linebacker on this play, and how his hips are turned on this play. He’s once again facing the sidelines; therefore, he’s not going to keep up with Mathews, thus Mariota knows that he can throw the ball right by the linebacker. Once the linebacker is taken out of contention, it’s the safeties that concern the QB. Mariota is looking towards the safety to the left of the formation, because he wants to hold him in place. Once he’s sure that the safety was too far away from his intended passing zone, he locks onto Mathews for the pass, and makes a great throw, right on the money to the outstretched arms of his receiver. Why didn’t he worry about the other safety? The natural route is supposed to block that safety with Matthews back, like how inside position in basketball is used to block off players in a rebound situation. Unfortunately for the Titans, the second safety makes a great play on the ball to knock it away. If the safety was a step slower to react, this most likely would have been a touchdown. It’s a positive play because the offense did everything perfect on this play, but got spoiled by great safety play.
This play doesn’t count, the Bengals got called for a holding penalty. I put this here just to highlight the great route running by Eric Decker, because I believe he’s one of the best route runners in the league. The Bengals are in man cover, and the cornerback on Decker has inside leverage, therefore he wants Decker to go outside. So how does Decker do exactly that with great success? With great double move. The defender is worried about an inside slant route here, which is why he’s lined up inside of Decker. The Titans receiver runs a route fake where he acts as if he’s going to the inside on a slant route or quick comeback route, which essentially forces the defender to jump the inside route. Remember, his positioning indicates that he’s keen on defending the inside slant route. So, once the defender jumps inside, Decker starts running down the field and is bound to be wide open. At this point, the cornerback has no choice but to hold Decker to prevent a touchdown. It’s just a marvelous route by Decker, taking advantage of the defender’s intentions against him.
It’s a good game for Marcus Mariota and the passing game, as they beat the Bengals in a close match up. As usual, please like, share, and subscribe to the website to stay up to date on these articles.
Links to Week 10 Articles:
Primarily, I work as a real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty in Franklin, Tennessee. I’ve lived in Nashville for almost a decade now, and my love for the city only grows deeper, like a 440 pothole. I follow the Titans closely, so I enjoy writing about the team and breaking down film. However, my main job consists of being a real estate agent, therefore if you need any kind of help with the sale/purchase of a home, I’d be happy to help you through the process. If you just want to talk about real estate, feel free to email me as well. I write a real estate blog as well, which I’ll leave a link to at the bottom of this section (as well as a few other places on the website) so please check it out.
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