The Tennessee Titans had their chance. With all the momentum in the world on their side and a struggling team on the opposite side of the field, the Titans could have had their defining moment.
Instead, they’re right back where they started.
Marcus Mariota and company took a giant step back in a 28-14 loss against the Cleveland Browns, as many of the issues from the dreadful 2014 campaign seemingly creeping back into the picture.
Last season started out the same way. No, the Titans weren’t as dominant in last year’s Week 1 win over Kansas City as they were in this year’s obliteration of the Tampa Bay Bucs, but both victories were a breath of fresh air.
However, this team followed up those wins in the same exact way: By looking like a completely different team in the next game.
In 2014, that came in the form of a 26-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. And now it comes in a head-scratching loss in Cleveland.
There’s no doubt that the Browns deserved it. Johnny Manziel looked impressive in only his third career start in the NFL, and the Cleveland defense absolutely manhandled the Titans’ offensive line.
But make no mistake about it, a lot of Tennessee’s struggles were self-inflicted. The Titans had nine penalties on the day (for 85 yards) and turned the ball over three times. All of those were fumbles, with two of them charged to Mariota.
The rookie quarterback that looked like the second coming of Joe Montana only one week ago suddenly became a rookie quarterback again. While the offensive line struggled mightily, Mariota made mistakes of his own in certain situations by holding the ball way longer than he needed to.
It was simply the type of game that was inevitable for a 21-year-old quarterback in the NFL. Unfortunately, it came a bit earlier than expected after such a magnificent performance in his league debut.
The good news is that even with the mistakes, Mariota was far from terrible. He still had two touchdown passes and looked to be in complete control of the offense despite running for his life on the majority of the plays.
The bad news is that Tennessee’s overall struggles once again reminded us that this franchise still has work to do in trying to return to relevance.
Game one spoiled us. Mariota looked invincible, the defense was unstoppable, and everything came together for four quarters in Tampa Bay. It led us to believe it would always be that way.
So, maybe this jolt back to reality was needed. But that doesn’t make this loss feel any better.
Had the Titans not started last season in a similar way, then maybe we would just chalk it up to a bad day at the office.
But it’s hard to do that right now. Not after most Titans fans felt bamboozled after the promising start a year ago. In that sense, it makes sense to feel let down.
However, this familiar phrase should ring even more true after this loss: One week doesn’t define a season. That’s life in the NFL. You can go from the top to the bottom in one single week.
Of course, you can also go from the bottom to the top. Right now, it feels like the Titans are back at the bottom like they were last season.
Luckily, by learning from their mistakes and finding a way to beat the Colts at Nissan Stadium on Sunday, the Titans can swing the pendulum once again.