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Negative Passing Game Film Breakdown: Titans vs. Dolphins (Week 1)

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Welcome to this week’s article on the negative passing game film breakdown: Titans vs. Dolphins.  We break down the bad plays by the QBs, which played a monumental part in the loss for the Tennessee Titans.



This is play is negative because Taywan Taylor can’t come up with the diving catch, and it ends up as 4th down.  However, this is actually a GREAT pass by Marcus Mariota, but it goes for naught.  As you read in Positive Film Breakdown article Play 2 this week, the Titans try formation manipulation once again with Delanie Walker.  The tight end runs a pick route, and he’s the secondary option on this play, since his defender has hips turned the wrong way.   Notice how Walker runs towards his defender, then cuts inside so the defender has to turn his hips to the inside as well.  If and when Walker turns to the outside, the defender has to do a 180 degree turn, while Walker turns only 90 degrees, allowing for some separation.  However, Mariota doesn’t wait for this route to develop, because his primary read is going to be wide open.  Taywan Taylor is essentially running a go route, and the defender is hesitant in a single safety look.  Notice the timing of the throw, because Taylor is about to blow right by the defender because he’s hesitant on the possible route choices for Taylor, hedging his bet for an out route.  When Mariota releases the ball, Taylor is a step away from the defender, and the QB assumes Taylor will be running to the end zone without issue.  Unfortunately, the defender interferes with Taylor’s route, initiating contact and slowing him down as you can see a slight readjustment.  However, Mariota has already released the ball, so he’s throwing to a spot where Taylor should be based on practices, but the interference slows down the receiver.  If Taylor has a free release running by the defender, this pass hits him in perfect stride.  Since, the receiver had to readjust, the pass is too far ahead.  Could Taylor have caught the pass? Absolutely, but it’s a tough ball to reel in while hitting the ground.  You can definitely make an argument for pass interference on this play.  The one thing to take away from this one is that Mariota threw a perfect pass, but it doesn’t show up on the stat sheet mainly because the defender slowed down the receiver after the QB released the ball.



There are a few things that went wrong with this play, with most of the issues laying at the feet of Corey Davis and Marcus Mariota.  Delanie Walker is running a quick out route, while blocking the defensive end (or linebacker) at the start of the play to sell the run concept.  He then allows the defender to get past him, allowing himself to be free for the pass, and it works out great since he’s wide open.   The first issue here is that Mariota hesitates to throw the pass because he has a defender in his face.  The second aspect is that, he doesn’t lead Walker on the play, rather floating the pass to him, and you can see Walker slow down to get in line with the football.  Notice Corey Davis on this play as well, because he doesn’t run deeper on this route.  There is no point in him running this current route because Walker is in the same trajectory as far as Mariota is concerned.  Therefore, if Walker is covered, then that defender would also be in the passing lane to Davis.  On this play, Davis has to go towards the back of the end zone to create spacing, so if Walker is covered, then Mariota has enough space to pass to the young receiver.  The downside of this route happens when Davis’s defender peels off and makes a play on the ball because the routes are too close to each other.  This is a terrible throw, that quite possibly could have been intercepted, from Mariota so the biggest fault lays with the QB.  However, Corey Davis doesn’t do his QB any favors with this route, and the offense is lucky this pass just falls incomplete.



A failed 4th down conversion, and the main fault lays with Mariota on this play.  From the start of this play, he locks on Davis, and it’s a decent read, but a terrible throw.  Tajae Sharpe is essentially running a pick play here, and his main task is to cause the defender on Davis to slow down.  Sharpe does a decent job, as the defender goes behind the receiver, allowing Davis to be open.  Mariota, on the other hand, places the ball on the wrong shoulder, forcing Davis to turn around and lose momentum.  This ball has to be placed on Davis’ outside shoulder, so he can continue his momentum to the outside and turn the corner.  The throw goes to the inside, which causes Davis to slow down and turn right into the defender.  This is just a terrible throw.



This play essentially goes for 6 yards, but it could have been a lot more.  The play is a read option, and all Mariota is doing is reading the defensive end.  If the defensive end follows the running back, then keep the ball and run to the outside.  If the defensive end comes straight at the QB, then hand off the ball to the running back.  In this instance, the defensive end is indecisive, at which point Mariota keeps the ball because he has the athletic ability to get around him.  The negative part of this play is Luke Stocker, because I’m not sure what he’s doing.  It’s a read option running play, so he should be just blocking.  Instead he runs right by his blocking assignment, and realizes his mistake too late.  When Mariota decides to run, he is assuming Stocker will block his man, allowing Mariota to turn the corner and run up the field.  It’s a terrible job by Stocker, and forces Mariota to absorb an unnecessary hit in the process.  If Stocker had blocked his man, this play goes for at least 10 yards, if not more, and would have allowed Mariota to run out of bounds.  It’s worth noting that they punted on this drive because they could not convert the ensuing third down play.



There are a few things wrong with this play, the primary one being a bad play recognition from Corey Davis.  It’s a third and short play, and it looks like Davis is supposed to run a pick play on the defender, but misses the chance by going up field too much.  The rub route is supposed to open up the underneath route for a quick pass and conversion, but that is taken off the table.  The second aspect is a deeper in route, but Davis and his defender are in the passing lane, so Mariota wisely decides against it.  The QB assumes Davis would continue on with his route and throws what would at best be a 50/50 ball to the outside, but Davis stops short because he wasn’t supposed to really be a factor on this play.  His assignment, most likely, was to set the pick route and clear out.  Partial blame also goes for Marcus Mariota as well because he has a somewhat clean pocket, yet forces this pass down the field.



Remember Play 3 from the Passing Game Positives article? Well this is the same play, but towards the other side of the formation.  Unfortunately, Mariota makes this pass towards the wrong shoulder of Davis, and the young receiver drops it.  It’s the same exact read for Mariota as well, with two defenders on three receivers.  The linebacker and safety aren’t close to the line of scrimmage to make a play on this, but the QB makes a bad throw.



You knew this play was going to be in this article.  This is Mariota’s fist pass since injuring his hand, and you can see the effect.  The play calls for a clear out route by (I believe it’s Corey Davis, I can’t tell from this film) and a deep in route from Tajae Sharpe.  The read on the play is the safety Reshad Jones, and his choice determines the option for Mariota.  If Jones goes aggressively towards Sharpe, then it’s a one on one match-up down the field for Davis.  If Jones sticks close to Davis, then hit Sharpe as he’s going across the field.  However, Mariota floats this pass up the field because he can’t snap his hands to give the football direction.  The pass needs to be towards the sidelines, but you can see Sharpe having to readjust his route and move up field.  This pass is clearly off target because Mariota is injured, and it floats right towards the safety, who promptly makes the interception.   This is also the play in which Taylor Lewan got injured, but I feel there is no need to show it since we all know it was a dirty hit.



The second interception from Mariota, and it’s the exact same issue as the ball floats.  The Titans have an excellent set up here and this is supposed to go for major yards if executed properly.   Scroll up and watch Play 6 in this article, and then also read Play 3 in the positives article.  Remember how the Titans moved players across the formation to make a two receiver set into a three receiver set, and then run a quick screen because the safety was too far away? Well this is the NFL chess game here, because the Dolphins audible this time and pull the safety up and have linebackers shade to that side as well.  However, the Titans have a built in counteraction just for this play, which is a screen pass to Dion Lewis going the other way.  The fake pass to the wide receiver is to clear out the linebackers in the middle, providing Lewis more space to run in the middle of the field.  It’s set up absolutely perfect.  The first sign of trouble is that Josh Kline misses the block on Kiko Alonso.  The center and guard have one guy to block on this play, which is Alonso, and they both miss out.  The second, and most egregious mistake is from Marcus Mariota, who floats the pass again, and completely misses Dion Lewis.  Unfortunately for the Titans, since Alonso wasn’t blocked properly, he’s perfectly in line to catch the ball for an interception.  This is another example of Mariota being hurt, because this is about an easy throw as there is (unless you are Christian Hackenberg) for a QB, and he floats the pass.   It’s a terrible break for the Titans because this pass is going for at least 10-15 yards if executed properly.



Blaine Gabbert in at QB, and this pass is just to the wrong shoulder.  It’s a simple out route by Tajae Sharpe, and all Gabbert has to do is put this ball towards the other shoulder for an easy catch.  However, Gabbert fires it at the wrong shoulder, at which point Sharpe tries to catch it with one hand and fails.



The Dolphins sell out for the rush here, and bite on the play action.  Gabbert has Corey Davis open for a pass, but floats it too high and it goes for an incompletion.  The last two examples are why Gabbert has a 56% career completion percentage, because he misses throws that need to be completed.  There is no excuse to float this pass, when he has plenty of protection in the pocket.



An interception thrown by Gabbert, and it looks like a communication issue between the QB and Delanie Walker.  Gabbert assumes Walker will continue the route, but Walker turns around and the pass goes to the safety once again.  There aren’t that many options open on this play, so I can’t completely deride the choice Gabbert makes, but he has to make a better throw.



I’m not quite sure where this pass is heading, because the main target seems to be the safety.  Once again, I don’t think Gabbert is in sync with the receivers because there seems to be a lot of miscommunication once he got in the game.  I’m not sure if Gabbert or Davis is at fault here, because there is a defender to the inside of Davis, so a throw there is ripe for an interception.  It looks like Gabbert assumes Davis will run a curl instead of an in route, but that is not the case.



The anatomy of miscommunication.  On this play, we have a prime example of miscommunication, because the running back points out something within the coverage.  Gabbert examines the defense and Corey Davis seems to be trying to communicate with the QB, for some sign of an audible.  However, Gabbert doesn’t notice it, and the QB and receiver are on two separate pages here.  Gabbert expects an out route, while Davis runs an in route, and the ball floats aimlessly to the ground.  In this instance, I believe Corey Davis might be the wrongful party because he seemed to indicate an audible, while Gabbert didn’t acknowledge it.  Although, it’s nearly impossible to tell, and I spent more time than I care to admit, watching slow motion replays of a backup QB spitting in his hand to see if there was an audible.


The mistakes in this game started piling up once Marcus Mariota was injured, and floated two passes.  I thought the concept designs by the coaching staff showed promise, but once again, the Delanie Walker injury throws a wrench into their plans.  I omitted from breaking down the last drive from Gabbert because it was essentially the Dolphins playing prevent defense.

Thanks for reading, and please make sure to read the Positive Passing Play Article as well.

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