Sports, Thrill of Victory

Tale of two halves for Titans in season-opening loss to Vikings

Mike Mularkey has the Titans playing outstanding football as they continue their march towards a playoff spot. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

The season-opener started off well enough for the Tennessee Titans.

It wasn’t always pretty for Mike Mularkey’s team in the first half against the Minnesota Vikings, but a 10-0 lead over the reigning NFC North champions was nothing to scoff at.

Tennessee’s offense had seemingly found a rhythm and looked to be much-improved thanks to all the new pieces that were added to the puzzle.

And then things fell apart.

Marcus Mariota didn't have his best day in a 25-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Marcus Mariota didn’t have his best day in a 25-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

The Vikings scored 25 unanswered points in the second half and walked out of Nissan Stadium with a 25-16 victory.

This was the same Minnesota team that lost its franchise quarterback just a week before the season started. However, veteran Shaun Hill managed the game about as well as the Vikings could have asked for.

As for Marcus Mariota? Well, he’s seen better days.

Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks snagged an errant throw from Mariota and returned it for a touchdown with a little over a minute left in the third quarter. The play completely changed the course of the game and swung the momentum, with Minnesota taking a 12-10 lead.

After that throw, Mariota was never the same. He struggled with his footwork. He threw balls that never should have been thrown. Simply put, he looked like a second-year quarterback.

But the blunders didn’t stop there for the Titans’ offense.

Several minutes after the interception return, it was Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter that scooped up a botched exchange between Mariota and DeMarco Murray and returned it to the house for another defensive touchdown.

Those are the kinds of mistakes that the Titans can’t afford. The Tennessee defense played well for the most part, limiting running back Adrian Peterson to just 31 yards rushing on the day.

Unfortunately, the mistakes from the offense destroyed any momentum that the defense built.

Mike Mularkey and company must fix the mistakes if the Titans want to make progress this season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Mike Mularkey and company must fix the mistakes if the Titans want to make progress this season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

But these mistakes were bound to happen. Despite a a strong rookie season, Mariota still only has one year of experience in the NFL. He’s going to make mistakes. Of course, it’s better if he makes mistakes that don’t lead to points for the other team.

The good news is that it’s only game one. The Titans have plenty of time to work out some of the bigger issues that were on display against the Vikings, so the season is far from over.

There were glaring positives (rookie wide receiver Tajae Sharpe led the team in receiving), and there were glaring negatives (the three costly turnovers).

There’s no reason to overreact to either. Despite the Teddy Bridgewater injury, the Vikings will likely still factor into the NFC North title race. So, that was far from a bad team that left Nashville with a win.

But still, the Titans have mostly themselves to blame. It’s hard to win the NFL when you hand two touchdowns to the opposition.

It’s a long season. Tennessee will make more turnovers and lose more games.

It’s also important to remember that this is the same franchise that looked like world-beaters in the 2014 and 2015 season openers. That didn’t exactly lead to long-lasting success.

With this franchise, it’s all about progress.

And while the Titans are still several steps away from being a consistent winner, steady progress is the only way to get there.