Welcome to the Negative Passing Plays: Titans vs. Chargers (Week 7) article, as we break down the negative passing game film for the Titans. I know that’s a weird introductory sentence, but I have to phrase it that way for the SEO. The game was definitely competitive and came down to a thrilling end, only for the Titans to fall short. Let’s see how they fell short with the negative plays.
Negative Passing Plays:
Marcus Mariota is lucky this pass wasn’t intercepted, because the defensive back got both hands on it. The issue is really simple, Mariota made the wrong read off the line of scrimmage. He’s looking for Anthony Firsker off the line, but the tight end pulls up short of the first down and is well covered to boot. Unfortunately, this is a timing route so Mariota only has the chance to time this pass to either Firkser or Sharpe because they make their cuts at similar times. He doesn’t have the chance to look at both of these options because the defenders have too much time to recover. The safety valve on this play was the pass outside to Dion Lewis, but Mariota tries to fit it into Sharpe, and almost gets intercepted. If he had been looking at Sharpe from the get-go, this is an easy completion, but he doesn’t see it from the start. Notice how the Chargers had two defenders to the right side of the formation, with a deep safety in the end zone. This should tell Mariota to look towards the right side, because there aren’t that many outcomes from this combination. If the slot defender (the one on Sharpe) stays inside, then the second defender becomes the target for the outside receiver. If that defender also stays with the receiver, then Lewis is going to have an edge to the sidelines. If the slot defender (the one on Sharpe) plays zone, then Sharpe is going to be wide open for a quick pass, as was the case here. If the slot defender stays inside with Sharpe, but the outside defender moves outside towards Lewis, then the outside receiver will be open before the safety can cover the ground. Knowing the routes and safety options, Mariota absolutely needs to read this differently at the line of scrimmage, because the set up is there for this to be a converted third down.
This is the first sack of the game, and I believe Mariota is the culprit. There is a chance for him to make the pass deep to the outside receiver, but he declines to pull the trigger, and then gets sacked. Part of the reason why he’s afraid is the defender to the inside of the triangle of receivers, but he has to take a chance there and lead the outside receiver with this pass. It’s not an easy pass, but sometimes I feel Mariota relies on his athletic ability to escape the pocket to avoid risky passes, but he needs to take some of these shots since the receiver is open. It’s another pass to the right side where he doesn’t seem confident.
The Chargers are sitting on this audible, and I think Mariota is just throwing this pass away, because an accurate throw would have resulted in a pick 6. Mariota sees the pre-snap formation and calls an audible, but notice how the defender recognized the call and immediately called one of his own. He knew it was essentially going to be a wide receiver screen, and blew up this play. If you watch closely, when Mariota is looking over, that defender is lined up over the outside receiver with safety help over the top. Mariota is assuming the particular defender will engage the outside receiver, who will promptly be blocking on the play. Corey Davis would then beat his defender to the sideline, and the safety would be too far away to make an impact on the play before the first down on 3rd & 2. However, the defender doesn’t engage the outside receiver, at which point he jumps the passing lane and the whole audible is blown up. I’m not going to blame Mariota as much for this one, because I can see why he called this audible. This is just great recognition from the defense, and Mariota does a good job at avoiding the interception.
A bad luck interception for the Titans, because they did everything well on the play, except for the tipped pass. First of all, Taylor going in motion is to free up Jonnu Smith, which is exactly what happens. The Chargers are primarily playing zone, so when Taylor goes in motion, his defender doesn’t follow. Notice the defender in the slot over Jonnu Smith for this play, as he’s coming down to the line of scrimmage. He’s lined up exactly where this pass is supposed to go, hence why Taylor goes in motion, to bait him down to the line of scrimmage. The young tight end moves as if he’s going to block him first, before turning up the field for his route. It all plays out well, because the defender has vacated the area, and there is a small window for Mariota to hit Smith. Unfortunately, the ball is tipped and it goes right to a defender for the interception. There is a secondary defender in the area, but I think Mariota had the angle for this touchdown if he placed it on Smith’s outside shoulder. It’s an unfortunate break for the offense in the red zone, because the play set up is great.
I preach hip rotation when it comes to reading defensive backs, but here is a situation where it backfires. Mariota’s first read on the play is Taywan Taylor matched up one on one to the outside on the left side of the formation. He’s running towards the middle of the field to rotate the defender’s hips, and then cutting outside, which is why Mariota is looking towards him in the first place. Theoretically, Taylor has the advantage because he only has to turn half the degrees as the defender. However, they are within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, so the cornerback can be a bit more physical, thus slowing down Taylor and negating the first read. Here is where Mariota makes his mistake. His second read is to the middle of the field, as Davis and Sharpe are running tiered crossing routes, but he makes the wrong read. He locks in Davis, even though the receiver is short of the first down marker on this third down play. Sharpe is running wide open behind him, but Mariota doesn’t see it, and focuses in on Davis. Davis, as Titans’ receivers are wont to do, dropped the pass anyway, thus it falls incomplete. It would not have mattered since he was short of the first down, but this is a play where Mariota has to read the field better. They are running tiered routes so he can read those two routes simultaneously, yet he picks the wrong one.
Your weekly scheduled exercise in catching ineptitude, performed by Titans’ receivers. I don’t know how to break this down, it’s a perfect pass that hits Taylor is stride and he flat out drops it.
I just have one question on this play. What exactly is Tajae Sharpe blocking? He lets the closest defender have a direct shot at the receiver on a WR screen, so he can block 8 yards down the field? Why is he releasing that defender, when that’s the first guy he has to block, and allow Davis to get around the edge?
Corey Davis gets in on the dropped passes action, once again. Mariota makes a great read here with hip rotation, and Davis runs a good route as well. He manipulates the hips of the defender by turning him inside, before breaking outside and creating separation. The pass is slightly ahead of him, but he has to reel in this ball on third down in a one score game. While I’m here, can we please stop acting like Corey Davis is a No. 1 receiver? He is the No. 1 on the Titans, but that’s by default. He’s not a true No. 1 at this point, even though he shows potential.
The first two-point conversion try, albeit the Chargers are called for a penalty. How in the world does Mariota miss Dion Lewis for the easy conversion here, as Mariota is looking in that direction? The receiver essentially runs a pick play, which completely takes out the defender on Lewis, and Mariota is looking directly at the play. He doesn’t realize that it means Lewis is wide open for the pass, but rather decides to scramble around. Near the end, he misses Lewis once again.
He has Lewis open directly in front of him, with no defenders in the way. All he has to do is throw the ball towards the outside shoulder of Lewis, and it’s a catch, but Mariota opts to throw across his body into traffic. Lewis is probably the best weapon for Mariota in the passing game right now, so I have no idea why he ignores him on this crucial play.
The last two-point conversion, and it’s a tipped pass to Taywan Taylor, although he’s well covered on the play. I’m not sure why Mariota is looking towards his right to start this play, because the timing is off. When Mariota is looking to the right, neither Jonnu Smith nor Corey Davis can catch the ball, because they aren’t breaking in their route. Notice how both of them break into their routes after Mariota moves on. On the other side of the field, Tajae Sharpe breaks his route early and if Mariota was looking towards him, this might be a conversion. It’s a tight pass, but there is a passing lane there if Mariota is looking towards the left side from the start. However, by the time Mariota looks over from the right side, the defender on Sharpe can close the ground, at which point Mariota throws it up towards Taylor, but the ball is tipped, and falls incomplete. Why didn’t Mariota try to scramble?
You can thank Corey Levin for it, because he absolutely gets manhandled on this play. He gets thrown aside like Christmas wrapping, which leaves Mariota facing a free rusher and he decides to throw it up to Taylor as a last-ditch effort.
The passing game looked better in this game versus the Ravens, but it still fell short. The receivers have been dropping easy passes at crucial times, so it’s hard to blame Mariota for all the struggles. They haven’t been reliable, and defenses are aggressive because they don’t have to fear being beat down the field consistently.
One thing that does worry me about Mariota is his lack of aggressiveness to the right side of the field.
That’s a link to his passing chart from this game, and if you go back to last week as well, you can see him favoring the left side of the field. I’m not sure if it’s an injury related issue or scheme related, but something is definitely askew. He’s much better at spreading the ball around the field, so it bears watching.
Thanks for reading Negative Passing Plays: Titans vs. Chargers (Week 7) article, and please follow us on Twitter!!
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.
Keller Williams Realty
9175 Carothers Parkway,
Franklin, TN 37067
Office: 615 – 778 – 1818
Fax: 615 – 778 – 8898
Mobile: 347 -249 -8442
License Number: 342828