Welcome to the Positive Passing Plays: Titans vs. Texans (Week 12) article as we look into the successful passing plays from Marcus Mariota against the Houston Texans. Since Mariota only missed on one pass in the entire game, I’m going to skip the Negative Passing Plays article, instead writing a Negative Defensive Plays article to satisfy your need for negativity. I highlighted some plays that I thought were noteworthy.
Positive Passing Plays:
The second pass of this game, and it’s a beauty because you can clearly see the reads and the system in motion. The play action is designed to pull in the linebackers, and it works like a charm. The first read is a dig route to Tajae Sharpe, but the Texans have it covered with a defender on top and underneath. Mariota makes the correct read, and moves onto the second option sensing that it’s a dangerous plan to deliver the pass to Sharpe. The second read is actually dependent on the safety here, which is why you see Mariota hesitate a bit, and why the timing of the throw seems sluggish. On this play, the safety bites on the play action, therefore allowing Corey Davis a one on one match up. The cornerback doesn’t have any safety help over the top, and his hips are turned to the wrong side, which allows him to break open rather easily to the outside. If the safety had not bit on the play action, then this is a dump-off pass to Lewis because the Titans have set up two blockers for two hypothetical defenders (assuming the safety doesn’t run towards the line of scrimmage). It’s a great play, both in execution and development.
The Jonnu Smith touchdown, and the high-water mark for fans watching this game. The read here is fairly simple and relies on the safety to the right side of the formation. The safety runs towards the line of scrimmage, but turns around as soon as he thinks Jonnu Smith was blocking, rather than running a route. Simultaneously, Mariota notices the safety bailing towards the sidelines, which means Smith will be wide open for this quick pass, and Mariota delivers a good pass. The play is made by Jonnu Smith, who turns on the jets to outrun the defenders down the field. It’s a good play set up, which struck gold because Smith showed off speed down the field.
A very good throw from Mariota on a somewhat broken play, with a very similar set up to Play 1 in this article. The read here is the safety on two aspects. The first aspect is the run/pass option which is dependent on the safety coming down to the box. Since the safety rushes to the box, it’s the pass option, but then the play breaks down. Jonnu Smith is supposed to chip block and release, but he falls down, taking away the quick hit option. The safety stays with Smith nonetheless, which allows for the pass to Smith because once again the cornerback’s hips are facing towards the inside. I don’t particularly like this route from Davis, because he rounds it off too much, while giving away his intentions early. Notice how quickly the cornerback makes the 180 degree turn, while Davis makes the 90 degree turn. Davis maintains more speed because the degrees are shorter, but he has to make tighter turns in the future. It’s a perfect pass from Mariota, which allows it to be complete, but this is a situation where he should have more separation but allows it to be closer.
Warning: Next Two Plays Are Negative
I know this is a positive play article, but since I’m looking at the defense for the negatives this week, I wanted to highlight two negative plays that happened back to back. On this play, Mariota hits Dion Lewis for 7 yards on 3rd and 8. The problem isn’t the result, but the process for me because Lewis should have easily had a first down. Mariota steps up in the pocket against a 3 man rush to draw in Clowney from the middle, but he makes a bad pass. Instead of stepping into the throw, Mariota jumps away from his intended target and floats a pass. That pass is fine and dandy when the receiver is past the first down marker, but it’s a horrible choice on a play which requires yards after the catch. He needs to step into this throw, because the floating football allows the defense to close in on Lewis. The pass needs to get to Lewis faster so he can build up momentum towards the end zone. I know It’s a completed pass, but this is one of Mariota’s biggest flaws. He tends to abandon proper mechanics at times to get better angles, but allow passes to float.
I couldn’t write a breakdown of the game without including this head scratching call. It’s the infamous Luke Stocker rush on 4th and 1, which was promptly stopped. I put in the play from the start, because what really dooms the play call is actually sending Jonnu Smith in motion. When Smith is lined up to the right side of the formation, he’s covered by cornerback Kareem Jackson, and the defender is standing in an area the Titans want to attack. The motion is designed to move Jackson away from that area to create a one on one match up. They have JJ Watt lined up to the outside on MyCole Pruitt, and the intention is clear for the Titans perspective. Pruitt’s job is to allow Watt to rush on the outside of him, allowing Stocker to take the inside route. Essentially, by putting an inferior blocker on Watt, they are hoping the defender is aggressive up the field, taking himself out of the play without using an offensive linemen to block. The plan works perfectly as Jackson follows Smith across the formation, which is what Mariota is looking at, and presumes the middle linebacker would be too far inside to stop the play before the first down. However, the plan completely backfired because the Texans rotated Zach Cunningham to the spot vacated by Smith, which is a disaster for the Titans. Instead of having Smith to at least block Kareem Jackson out of the way, they substituted it with a bigger linebacker without any blockers. This is a situation where the Titans have to call time out or audible out of the play because the set up is completely wrong for the play call. Unfortunately, the Titans go on with the play and it’s stopped before the first down marker.
The long touchdown to Corey Davis, and this is a beautiful set up from the offense. The main aspect of this is of course Corey Davis running a great double move route on 3rd and 7, fooling the cornerback into thinking this is an out route. Mariota places the ball in a great spot for the receiver, so he has a chance to catch the pass before the safety can make a play on it. Once the ball is caught, Davis makes a great cut to the inside and runs in for the touchdown. The other aspect of the play is the combination to the left side of the formation if Davis’ route isn’t successful. The Titans have a tight end and Dion Lewis combination in the flat, with the tight end acting as the blocker if needed. It’s a route that should get a first down, but the offense needed to be aggressive down the field at this point of the game. This is just a great route by Davis and throw by Mariota.
The Titans had a good plan of attack for the passing game, but the running game didn’t show up in this game and the defense got smoked, leading to a lopsided loss.
- Mariota was on point for the entire game, showing good accuracy
- The penalties killed drives
- The running game just didn’t compliment the offense at all
- The 4th down and 1 play failed partially because of Jonnu Smith going in motion
- Corey Davis had a great game
- The offense needs to be more aggressive down the field
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