Welcome to the Negative Passing Plays: Titans vs. Ravens (Week 6) article as we look at what went wrong for the offense this past week. The article is longer than most college assignments, because this week was just terrible.
Negative Passing Plays:
The first sack of the day, and I’m going to blame this on the coaching staff, because Mariota doesn’t stand a chance here. The issue really is with MyCole Pruitt because he goes for a free release, when he needs to chip block. The Titans are in a 2nd & 6 situation, where they let the defender have a free release into the backfield. The ideal scenario in this is of course the defender runs horizontal to the line in pursuit of the running back, but the Ravens are a disciplined bunch on defense. It makes more sense for him to run up the field for a possible play action than chase down a running back that will run away from him. If Pruitt chip blocks him, it slows down his momentum, and affords Mariota time to escape the pocket, and then still have two receivers as options. Instead, the coaching staff wanted an extra option, and therefore it forced Mariota to be directly in line for a hit. He does a good job of avoiding the initial defender, but gets gang tackled at the end.
The second sack of the day, and this one falls squarely on the shoulders of Josh Kline. The Ravens show blitz on 3rd & 12, but in reality, it’s a disguise for zone cover while rushing just 5 players. Once you add in the running back, the Titans retain 7 blockers in the backfield for this play, that’s a 2-player advantage in blocking (Yes, complex math), yet Josh Kline just gets bull rushed by the defender and leads him right to the QB. The other aspect to notice on this play is really the safeties. Mariota has a chance to take a deep shot to the slot receiver (I believe it’s Sharpe) as he’s trying to cut to the outside from the middle of the field. However, watch the safety on this play because he has no respect for the deep route here. The safety is jumping that outside route, which is the reason Mariota didn’t make this throw. It’s one of the biggest problems with the offense, because they aren’t threatening teams vertically, so defenders are sitting on slants and outs. Is it a throw that can be made? Sure, but it’s a risky throw with the safety sitting and driving on that route, and I believe Mariota expected to have more time with the numbers advantage in blocking.
This is not going to be popular, by any means. I don’t think the official interfered with this play enough to have an impact as this is just an overthrow from Mariota. I’ve seen this play mentioned a few times on social media, but I don’t see the route adjustment from Taylor here, where he’s going around the official. The ball lands about 3 yards ahead of him, as he’s arriving right in line with the horizontal placement of the ball. I’ll add the other angle of it here to view:
As you can see, Taylor crosses the horizontal plane of the football’s path as it’s over his head. To adjust for this, Taylor would have to run more vertically in his path (which was where the official was in line) to meet the vertical placement of the ball. However, running vertically means he won’t cover the distance horizontally, so if he meets the vertical trajectory of the pass, he won’t meet the horizontal placement of the pass. I’m not sure if it makes sense, but essentially this pass would either be too long (as was the case here) or too wide (if Taylor ran up field a bit more). I would like to blame the officials as much as the next person, but I can’t do that in this scenario. More of the fault lies with Mariota and just a bad pass here.
Another thing to notice with this play is the defender on Taylor, because he has his hips turned to the inside, which means anything to the middle of the field should be easy for him to drive on. However, right as they get close to the safety, notice how the defender slows down when Taylor slants up field. The Ravens are sitting on slants and outs, and the defender slowed down to turn for a possible out route, which is why Taylor is wide open. The Titans need to be aggressive with vertical routes, until defenses respect go routes, at which point the slants/outs will benefit.
The third sack of the day, and this one falls squarely on Marcus Mariota. First of all, this is a 3rd and 18 situation, so chances of conversion are fairly low to begin with. The other thing to notice is the Ravens once again going into single high safety, with very little respect for the deep routes here. Mariota is looking at the slot tight end to the left side of the formation, for an out route. However, the defense is playing against slants/outs here, as the defender runs the out route with the tight end. Look at the safety on this play, as he moves to the other side of the field. The Ravens have a linebacker dropping back to defend the slant from the linebacker, and the initial defender takes the out route. They are essentially daring the Titans to throw the pass deep, but they do not. The other thing to notice is Corey Davis to the left side of the formation, running a lazy route. Notice Davis’ route here because he’s running a deep curl route, but examine how he eases up on the route before making the cut back. He’s not running full speed at the end, at which point the defender can stay right there with him. This curl has to be much more sudden, rather than slowing down first and telegraphing his intentions. Why does the sack fall on Mariota? When Mariota moves on from his first read, he has Dion Lewis open for a pass, albeit it’s not going to get them a first down. You can see Lewis turn around, right as Mariota is moving on from the first read, but the QB bypasses the option, and runs to the outside. He runs out of bounds, but because it was behind the line of scrimmage, it goes as a sack.
The 4th sack of the day, and this one deserves partial blame. Half the blame goes to the coaching staff, because there is no built in hot route here for a possible blitz, as all three receivers run deep routes. The Ravens initially send four rushers against seven blockers, but then have a delayed blitz on after the TE and RB stay in to block. Once the rushers attack Mariota from the outside, and his step up lane, the QB has nowhere to go. The play call needs to factor in a part where someone runs a quick route so Mariota has an option. The second blame point goes to the GM, because the Ravens don’t show any respect for the receivers. They are in single high safety man coverage across the board, and all the linebackers blitz. They are essentially saying the receivers can’t beat man coverage, and therefore they can afford to send guys after the QB. This team needs a WR1 that forces defenses to roll coverage, instead of being in attack mode.
The 5th sack of the game, and this one falls on the offensive line. The biggest culprit here is Quinton Spain, although Tajae Sharpe could share some blame here. The receiver is motioned in towards the line of scrimmage, but he seems to have trouble with blocking assignments. Lewan points out about blocking assignments, but Sharpe cuts across to block the guy Lewan was already blocking for a chip block. Unfortunately, this is a big issue because Sharpe is supposed to run a chip block before running a route. However, Sharpe completely abandons the defender directly across from him, which causes Lewan to disengage and go after the blitzing defender. When Lewan disengages the defender, Spain gets confused and lets his defender push past him to block the defender that was passed on from Lewan. This is a case where Spain takes a bad situation and makes it worse because the defender he lets through has a direct shot at Mariota, rather than blocking him and having the other defender run around him taking a longer path. Mariota is basically hit as he reaches the top of his drop back, mainly due to a terrible display of blocking from the offensive line.
Very good play, but bad luck for the Titans. This is actually a great throw and anticipation from Mariota, but Corey Davis slips on the grass and goes past the cut back point, and this ball falls incomplete. If Davis doesn’t slip, this is a perfect pass showing great anticipation.
The 6th sack of the game, and this falls on Marcus Mariota. The initial read on this play is a quick crossing route from the outside on 3rd and 10, but Mariota realizes that the receiver will get tackled before the first down marker, and abandons the pocket to the right side. Corey Davis is cutting over from the slot position, and Mariota can make a throw on the run for the first down. However, Mariota tries to evade the rusher, and instead gets sacked. This is a play where Mariota has to go with the first read, or be aggressive enough to make the throw to Davis on the run. It’s one of those cases where Mariota tries to make a move in the backfield, and it backfired.
This is just a terrible throw by Mariota, but also somewhat of a bad decision as well. The team is in the one minute offense, and decide to take a shot down the field with Corey Davis, but Mariota makes a terrible throw. At the onset of the play, Mariota is trying to hold the safety in the middle, and then throwing it deep. The set up is fine, and the safety holds in the middle, but the throw is off base. The problem with this pass is that it has to be placed over the defender, but before the safety can run over. From Mariota’s angle, the defender is directly in the path of the passing lane, so he has to get it over that defender, which makes it an incredibly hard task to accomplish. Considering that it was 2nd down with only about 40 seconds left, he should have taken Tajae Sharpe cutting across the middle for a first down, and moving the chains. The Titans rushed after this play, then punted, and the Ravens almost went down the field for a field goal attempt.
This 7th sack goes on everybody, I gave the blame to the offensive scheme, Mariota, the GM, and Offensive line. It’s a complete breakdown on all levels. The first issue is that the offensive scheme essentially takes out two receivers in the middle of the field, as the slot receiver and Dion Lewis are both impeded by the middle linebacker. The linebacker slows down the slot receiver, but also stays in the running lane for Lewis, which forces Mariota to hesitate on the quick pass. The second part of the blame goes on Mariota, because he has to take the quick hit to Lewis in this case, and hope his best open field runner can make something of it. He sees Lewis open up as the hot read, but doesn’t pull the trigger. The third issue is with the GM because once again the defense goes to single high safety, showing no respect for the receivers down the field. There is no fear of a deep pass here for the defense, which makes it all the much easier for the defense. The last aspect of the fault lays with the offensive line. Why you ask?
The culprits are Josh Kline, Jack Conklin, and Luke Stocker to the right side of the line. The Ravens are running a stunt here and the offensive line doesn’t communicate. First of all, Josh Kline gets pretty much run over and lets his man push right through. Second, the Ravens send a stunt where the blitzing defender comes from the outside, but attacks up the middle, at which point Conklin tries to take the hand-off from Stocker. Unfortunately, Stocker doesn’t realize the need to hand off his defender, which essentially allows the blitzing defender to run right up the middle and get the sack on Mariota. This is pretty much a team effort on the sack.
This one goes for an incomplete pass in the stat book, but I wanted to highlight it for Mariota missing a pre-snap read. If you look at the start of this play, Tajae Sharpe is pointing out that his defender is blitzing, since they didn’t do a good job in hiding it. However, Mariota just doesn’t see it, and doesn’t adjust his protection. If you see a defender leaning in, with another defender lined up right behind, it’s a pretty good bet for a corner blitz. However, Mariota just doesn’t see the signs, and doesn’t adjust his protection at all. Ideally, Mariota would instruct Lewis to move to the right side of the formation, and then try to block the cornerback. This would allow Mariota to move to the left side of the formation, which is exactly where the receivers are running their routes. However, because the corner blitz wasn’t recognized by Mariota (although by Tajae Sharpe), this play blows up. Mariota has to move to the right side to avoid the blitz, but there are no routes to that side, thus he has to throw it away. Mariota does a good job to avoid the sack, but it’s his lack of pre-snap read that puts him in the position to begin with.
The 8th sack of day falls on Mariota for the most part, as he takes the sack on a critical 3rd down. The sack is pretty simple, Mariota makes the wrong read by trusting Darius Jennings, and it backfires. Notice Jennings to the right side of the formation, as he attacks the outside of the defender, which gets the cornerback to have his hips turned to the sidelines. Ideally, this means that when the receiver cuts inside, he should be open because he only has to turn 90 degrees, while the defender has double the degrees to turn. However, Jennings makes an astonishingly bad break to the inside, where he gets no space at all. Mariota is ready to pull the trigger but realizes that Jennings isn’t open, then tries to rush to the outside, and gets tackled. Mariota misses a chance to hit Tajae Sharpe up the middle for a conversion, as he locks in on Jennings from the start. I’m not sure I can blame Mariota fully for locking in on this match up, because hip rotation is a major factor in throwing receivers open. However, he needed to scan the field up the middle first, because this route takes time to develop.
The 9th sack of the day falls once again on Mariota, and it’s another bad read at the line of scrimmage. He sends Corey Davis in motion to the left side of the formation, with a defender playing well off the line of scrimmage, in single high safety look. The outside defender on Taywan Taylor also backs up, and remember Mariota knows the routes of his receivers, which are both fairly quick out routes. On the other side of the field, the Titans have a tight end running an out route with a defender close to the line of scrimmage, and another receiver running a deeper route that requires time. Mariota should recognize the easy pass to the left side of the formation, because the numbers and positioning match up better for his receiver’s planned routes. Mariota is locked in on the tight end here, but when he makes the break, there is no space. The QB has to reconsider his first read, but by then, the timing of the play is now off, since the receivers to the other side of the field have already made their breaks, and shown their cards. This is a case of Mariota locking in on a receiver pre-snap with a bad read, and then realizing too late that the first read is just not open.
I’m not even sure where this pass is supposed to go. Corey Davis is absolutely blanketed on this play, so I don’t understand what Mariota is looking for in this case. I don’t even know how to break this down, it’s just a bad read combined with a terrible throw.
The 10th sack of the day falls on Mariota once again, although partial blame has to go on the offensive line. I’d say it’s 75% on Mariota, while the rest lays on the offensive line. The Ravens run a late blitz, but Mariota doesn’t pull the trigger on a quick pass to the middle of the field or the right side. In this case, Mariota gets trigger shy, which leads to more problems. On the other hand, let’s look at the offensive line:
First of all, Taylor Lewan gets destroyed as the defender swats his hands away, and then attacks the QB. The only reason he doesn’t get the sack is because he runs into his own man on the way to the QB. That man was in the way because Corey Levin was too slow in handing off his defender to Ben Jones, and allows another defender to run right by him. Combined with indecision from Marcus Mariota, this ends up as the 10th sack of the game.
The 11th sack of the game, and thankfully the last one, is mainly because of Marcus Mariota. He gets gun shy again, where he has an open Tajae Sharpe in the middle, but foregoes the option to run up in the pocket and gets tackled. By this point, this game is over anyway, but Mariota has to throw this pass and avoid an unnecessary hit on your body, when there were open options.
The Titans had one of the worst offensive performances for a team in the NFL this season, and they looked completely over matched against the Ravens. The main issue with the team is there isn’t enough talent to cause defensive coordinators to worry about their game plans.
The sack blame game points from me:
Coaching Staff: 1.75
Offensive Line: 2.5
Most of the blame does go on Marcus Mariota, but they also have to get better at attacking defenses down the field. The team doesn’t have the weapons to scare teams one on one, and teams are attacking the line without fear of being beat down the field. The offense is stagnating too many times because the routes tend to be predictable. I think the Titans will do better against the Chargers next week, but that’s partially because it can’t get much worse.
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