Grading the Titans’ performance in their 27-23 loss against the Rams on Sunday at Nissan Stadium:
Rushing offense: C-
DeMarco Murray rushed for a team-high 48 yards on 15 carries and scored on a six-yard run to tie the score at 20-20 late in the third quarter. He was helped off the field late in the game and will have an MRI on his right knee. Titans coach Mike Mularkey said it “didn’t look good.” Derrick Henry had 25 yards on eight carries and Marcus Mariota added 24 yards on three carries. The Titans combined for 97 rushing yards on 26 carries against the NFL’s 24th-ranked rush defense. The Rams were allowing an average of more than 120 rushing yards per game.
Passing offense: C-
Marcus Mariota’s first pass attempt was intercepted near midfield by linebacker Cory Littleton, leading to the Rams’ first touchdown, and his comeback bid fell short after Delanie Walker crossed midfield on a 12-yard catch with 2:05 to play. The next four plays were all passes — three of them incomplete, including on fourth-and-4. Mariota completed 22 of 39 attempts for 275 yards, the pick and a 67.8 passer rating. He had three third-down passes either tipped or batted. Corey Davis had six catches for a team- and career-high 91 receiving yards. Eric Decker had six catches for 73 yards.
Rushing defense: C
Todd Gurley rushed for 118 yards on 22 carries, but was held out of the end zone, at least on the ground. It marked the second time in three weeks an opponent rushed for more than 100 yards against the Titans’ typically stout run defense. Gurley’s 34-yard run in the third quarter tied for the Rams’ second-longest play of the game. Later in the drive, a 10-yard run on fourth-and-1 set up a short touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Sammy Watkins, giving the Rams a 20-13 lead. Jurrell Casey blew up a running play in the second quarter, knocking the ball from Goff’s hands deep in Rams territory. It was recovered by Wesley Woodyard, who scored a touchdown to give the Titans a 10-6 lead, which they held for less than a minute.
Passing defense: D
The Titans were without two of their top three cornerbacks — Logan Ryan was inactive with an ankle injury and LeShaun Sims was placed on injured reserve earlier this week with a hamstring injury — leaving them to start Adoree’ Jackson, Brice McCain and Tye Smith. Goff and Gurley had a field day. Goff completed 22 of 38 passes for 301 yards, four touchdowns and a 118.4 rating. Gurley caught 10 of 13 targets for 158 yards and two touchdowns, including a screen pass he took 80 yards to the end zone. Cooper Kupp had four catches for 65 yards and the game-winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Watkins also added a score in the third. The Titans defense registered five quarterback hits and one team sack.
Special teams: B+
What happened on that surprise onside kick? The Titans appeared to have recovered it after Murray’s touchdown in the third quarter, but were told the officials hadn’t spotted the ball for play. Ryan Succop said that not only was the ball spotted, but he saw the official give a signal to begin play — and saw the play clock running — before the kickoff. Succop hit three of four field goals for Tennessee, connecting from 25, 37 and 27 yards and missing from 45. Jackson returned a kickoff 57 yards out of the end zone to the Rams 44, setting up a short field, which the Titans turned into Murray’s touchdown, tying the game at 20-20 with 4 ½ minutes remaining in the third quarter. Brett Kern ended up on his backside twice — no flags were thrown — but also managed a 62-yard punt to pin the Rams at their own 8 with 10 minutes to play. The Titans also defended a Rams fake punt in the first quarter. Curtis Riley knocked down a Johnny Hekker pass attempt into the end zone.
Mularkey had his first two successful challenges of the season, both on spot calls. The Titans’ no-huddle offense was effective on two drives in the second half, leading to 10 points. But they could have been more aggressive by running a play inside the 10-yard line at the end of the third quarter, rather than letting the clock expire. Tennessee caught the Rams completely off-guard with the surprise onside kick that oddly didn’t stand. It was a great call.
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