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Positive Passing Plays: Titans vs. Patriots (Week 10)

[Total: 3    Average: 3.7/5]

Welcome to the Positive Passing Plays: Titans vs. Patriots (Week 10) article as we look at the successful passing plays for the Titans in their win against the Patriots.  This is a fairly long article because the passing game was especially on point in this game, and Marcus Mariota shined with excellent throws.

Positive Passing Plays:


The first pass of the game, and it goes to Corey Davis.  The impressive aspect of this play is of course Mariota improvising because Davis is essentially his 4th read on this play.  The play is set up to confuse the linebackers to the right side of the formation.  The Patriots are in single high safety look, and Mariota has Tajae Sharpe running the go route down the sideline.  If the receiver beats his man down the field, then obviously the deep pass is open.  The secondary read is the linebacker in the flat.  If he drops back, then throw to Derrick Henry in the flat.  If the linebacker comes up, then hit Jonnu Smith on the crossing route since he’s behind the middle linebacker.  However, the play breaks down because the pocket collapses around Mariota bringing the linemen into the passing lane to Henry.  Mariota can’t pull the trigger to Smith because the route hasn’t been cleared yet, the timing is off because of the offensive line.  Notice the timing of Corey Davis’ break to the inside, because that’s the time of decision for Mariota on this play.  That is when he was supposed to pick one of Sharpe/Smith/Henry, and you can extrapolate how the spacing works.  Sharpe would have carried his defender down the field, and the linebacker in the flat has to pick between Smith/Henry and Mariota goes with the guy left alone.  Since the pocket collapses early, Mariota steps up and finds Davis running open on the other side of the field for the first down.  This is a great throw on the run by Mariota, but better recognition of his surroundings.  He realizes that his passing option to Henry is taken off the board by defensive line penetration, and moves on, instead of forcing a throw to Smith in this case.  A good move by Corey Davis as well as he takes advantage of the cornerback peeking into the backfield to get open.


The play looks like a misread from Mariota because Dion Lewis is wide open for the easy touchdown here, but Mariota reading the line here causes him to shy away.  Don’t get me wrong, Mariota should have been looking towards his left side on this play because there are three receivers to the left matched with three defenders.  Add in Lewis running to the left side and that is an instant numbers advantage.  He can hit Lewis for the easy pass and it’s a touchdown.  However, watch Taylor Lewan on the play because he’s the unsung hero.  The left tackle actually blocks two defenders here, which is why the Lewis miss appears to be bad.  Mariota is looking at the line, and notices Lewan is matched up with a defender, with a blitz coming to his outside.  Since Lewan isn’t blocking that defender,  Mariota assumes a free blitzing defender, which is why he abandons the pocket towards the right side, to get away from the blitzing defender.  Lewan, on the other hand, blocks the first defender with his arms long enough for the offensive line to switch and help out, and then takes out the blitzing linebacker.  In retrospect, Mariota would have had a clean pocket to throw to Lewis, but the QB can’t assume this great play from the LT, which is why he’s running to the right side.  He hits Jonnu Smith on the crossing route for the touchdown.


This is essentially a read option play from Mariota, but the read isn’t a defensive end penetrating the backfield.  He’s reading the linebacker on the backside of the play.  If the linebacker falls back, then he’s directly in line with Corey Davis’ route, and therefore hand off the ball to the running back.  If the linebacker follows the running back on a horizontal line, then it’s a much better passing lane to the receiver.  Davis runs a good route on Gilmore, gains separation, and Mariota places the ball perfectly.  I wish Davis didn’t round off his route quite as much but this is a great throw from Mariota and catch from Davis.


I’ve ripped on Corey Davis in the past, as I don’t consider him a No. 1 receiver, and I don’t think this game really changed my opinion of him to be a No. 1 receiver.  He’s still a No. 2 type for me, but he had a great game against the Pats, although I think it’s more Mariota being exceptional.  Take this pass for example, because Corey Davis doesn’t have much separation on this play.  Gilmore guards the inside, the sideline guards the outside, so the only way to get the ball to Davis is over the top.  Mariota makes a great pass, an absolutely perfect pass that is career highlight worthy.  It reminded me of this pass from Favre, while he was with the Vikings.

Notice how the defender has inside position, but Favre just floats it over the top and drops it right into Randy Moss’ hands.  That’s a pass that cannot be reasonably defended, as it’s the perfect pass for the situation.

In Mariota’s case, the pass is absolutely beautiful, and I cannot really say anything else about it.  It’s placed perfectly for Davis.


Once again, a beautiful throw from Mariota to Corey Davis, although this is a great route from Davis as well.  The Titans have run this particular route a few times this season, but rarely successful.  Davis gets very good separation here and Mariota hits him with a perfect pass.  This is another example of Mariota recognizing the blitz, and stepping up in the pocket and hitting the pass down the field.  Once again, Lewis is open for a pass, but the defenders take away the passing lane, which forces Mariota to improvise.  I believe last year, Mariota would have tried to run with this ball on 3rd and 14, instead of trusting his receivers.  This is just another wonderful pass.  Notice how Davis manipulates the hips of the defender in this case.  He’s running to the outside hip to turn the defender to the outside, and then attack his inside hip as if running a post route.  The defender has to put all his energy in turning towards the inside, which leaves the double move to the outside wide open.  I’ve noticed this route fairly often with the Titans this year.  Don’t be surprised in a big game, if this double move route to the outside turns into a double move go route.  It’s on tape for all the defenses to know, but a variation could catch them off guard.


Anthony Firkser doesn’t get much love around here with Titans fans, but this is a great catch.  It’s a very good throw, but considering Firkser is a back up tight end for the team, it’s a very good catch.  Mariota once again proves aggressive in this 3rd and short situation, but places the ball perfectly for Firsker.


I’m going to let this one be longer than usual, because I want to point out the chess game between the offense and the defense.  When Mariota motions Batson towards the slot receiver, the Patriots are showing single high safety, which Mariota can assume will shade over to the middle once the ball is snapped.  However, Patriots switch to a two safety zone look, which should thwart the plans for Mariota.  The Patriots are actually forcing Mariota to make his first read to the left side of the formation because the safety is going to be out of this play towards the sidelines if Mariota assumes single high safety with man coverage underneath.  On the other side of the field, the second safety and Gilmore are hovering over the two receivers, with a linebacker is lined up mirroring Lewis.  The Patriots succeed in tricking Mariota with the late movement because the advantage shifts to the Titans on the right side of the formation.  The Titans end up having three receivers matched up against two defenders, but it happens so late that Mariota can’t change the play or progression of reads.  The defense sells out for Sharpe on this play, with two defenders sitting on the out route, and leave Batson free towards the sidelines.  The Pats have everything else covered on this play, an inside and outside defender for Sharpe, and an inside safety for Batson.  The only way Batson gets wide open is the deep out route, which is exactly what was called.  The Patriots tricked Mariota into this read, but he beat the Patriots regardless because he makes a great throw to the only route on the left side designed to beat this zone scheme.  I thought it was interesting (to see a great defensive move negated by a great throw and route.  This is also a great job by Batson to stay get both feet in bounds.


This is pretty much a repeat from earlier in the game, but once again the coaching staff shows good planning.  It’s a read option play, but most read options deal with reading the end defenders to determine the possible success of the run.  Notice Mariota’s head in this case, because he’s only worried about the linebacker.  If the linebacker drops back into coverage, then he will impede the passing lane towards Davis.  If the linebacker stays near the line of scrimmage, then the passing lane towards the receiver on the slant route is now open.  Furthermore, notice the blocking scheme as the tight end comes across to block the edge defender.  That’s a built in protection if the linebacker drops back into coverage, but Mariota retains the ball.  In that scenario, Mariota now has the edge defender blocked so he can move outside the pocket to make his secondary reads or even run it himself.  This is probably one of my favorite play designs of the week because it’s relatively safe design with the potential to gain a large number of yards.  These are plays where the scheme makes it easier for the QB because there is really only one read on the play, which wasn’t the case last year.


This isn’t a pass obviously, but to piggyback the last play, I wanted to highlight a traditional read option.  In this case, Mariota is only concerned with the edge defender.  If the defender goes inside, keep the ball, and if the defender stays outside, then let the running back retain the ball.  In this case, the edge defender crept too far inside, and Mariota made him pay with a great run.  However, this major negative on this play is that Mariota HAS TO GET OUT OF BOUNDS.  There is nothing to gain by trying to stiff arm a defender with your throwing hand as you fall out of bounds, after the first down.  I appreciate the toughness and determination, but the Titans’ season depends on the right hand of Mariota.  If Blaine Gabbert has to come in for a long stretch of time, you may as well try to figure out where to sit for the NFL Draft.  You can not take this hit at the end, there is no upside here.


The Corey Davis highlight catch.  The play is fairly simple, the Titans have a pick route on the outside to free up Davis from the slot on a quick out route.  Notice the timing of this play, because the whole purpose of the outside route is to create this open out route from Davis.  Right as Davis makes his cut to the outside, the receiver blocks Gilmore by running into him, therefore preventing the defender from getting through.  If the Pats had switched in this scenario, then the outside defender would be facing towards the middle of the field, and that hip rotation advantage would still spring Davis open.  This is a great play set up, and execution by the receivers, but a horrible throw from Mariota.  He places it far too high and Davis makes a great catch.  I’ve sung the praises of Mariota in this article, but this is more of an exceptional catch from the young receiver than a great throw.


The final pass of the game, and it’s a trick play with a double reverse wide receiver pass to Marcus Mariota.  The Pats are in 0 cover expecting a run and get surprised with this trick play.  The Patriots had just run the same play, and I thought Edelman made a great throw but Tom Brady stumbled short of the first down.  Jennings makes a good throw here but Mariota actually does a great job of reading the pass and staying with it down field, especially considering he’s not a receiver.


  • Marcus Mariota played one of the best games of his career, and his accuracy seems better after the gloves came off. The Patriots are a bend but don’t break type defense that will try to confuse QBs and he played extremely well.
  • Corey Davis had a great game, and besides the playoff game against the Pats last year, his best performance. I still think he’s a No. 2 receiver, but he played like a No. 1 guy this year.  One thing I did notice is that his routes are starting to get a bit better.
  • The game planning is great, and I really like how the staff sets up some of these passes. The difference between offensive schemes is night and day compared to last year, and it should be exciting to see how the team performs as they get deeper into the playbook

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