On Saturday night at Nissan Stadium, the Tennessee Titans beat the San Diego Chargers 27-10 in the opening preseason game of the 2016 NFL season.
Let’s recap some of the game’s highlights and takeaways.
The Game Supported Make-A-Wish Foundation
The Titans’ first two offensive play calls were auctioned to bidders at $10,000 apiece in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants wishes to children who face life-threatening illnesses.
Both auctioned calls played well for Tennessee. The first resulted in a 15-yard gain by DeMarco Murray, while the later resulted in a 31-yard reception by Tajae Sharpe. Ryan Succop capped the drive with a 47-yard field goal to give the Titans’ a 3-0 lead.
Titans Found Success In Their Run Game
The Titans’ rushers were undoubtedly the biggest performers on Saturday night, as DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, and Bishop Sankey accounted for 21-of-27 team points and 209-of-288 team-rushing yards.
Murray stole the show among the three. In the Titans’ third offensive drive, he followed a blocking lane on the O-Line’s left side, dodged a tackle attempt by Chargers’ safety Darrell Stucky, and rushed along the sideline for a 71-yard touchdown. The play gave the Titans’ a 10-7 lead, which they did not sacrifice for the rest of the game.
“Delanie and the offensive line they made great blocks on the power [rush],” Murray said. “And I think the biggest block was by DGB. DGB made a great block on the cornerback outside. When you have big runs like that, it’s usually the eleven guys working together, and I thought we worked really well on that play together.”
On the following offensive drive, Henry increased the Titans’ lead to 17-7 on a 6-yard touchdown run. With the score, Henry extended his Alabama streak of 20 consecutive games with one or more touchdowns into the NFL. Though, when asked to comment on the feat, the rookie running back smirked and said, “This is a new league now. That was college.”
Sankey scored his touchdown on the first offensive play of the fourth quarter. The three-year running back took a handoff from Alex Tanney, made several tacklers miss with a hard right cut, and rushed along the sideline en route to a 41-yard score.
Titans’ Starting Offensive Line Played Bulk Of First Half
The starting front five from right tackle to left tackle — Taylor Lewan, Quinton Spain, Ben Jones, Chance Warmack, Jack Conklin — played the bulk of the first half, most among all first-team units for the Titans.
Head coach Mularkey and offensive line coach Russ Grimm seek to create unity within the group, since Ben Jones and Jack Conklin are new members, and since the Titans’ O-Line ranked among the worst in the league last season.
Tajae Sharpe, Kevin Byard Impressed
It is of little surprise that Tajae Sharpe and Kevin Byard played well in Saturday’s preseason matchup since the two rookies have received strong praise from Titans’ personnel throughout OTAs, minicamp, and training camp.
In limited playing time, Sharpe made two receptions: one for 31 yards on the Titans’ first offensive drive and another for 4 yards on the following drive. The fifth-round pick from UMass was soon removed from the game to undergo concussion screenings.
Fortunately, Sharpe avoided a concussion, per reports on Sunday afternoon. “He is doing well. He should practice (Monday),” Mularkey said. “We did a full evaluation of him and he had no symptoms today and should practice (Monday) night.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Kevin Byard picked off former Titans’ quarterback Zach Mettenberger in the third quarter. Coach Mike Mularkey was particularly pleased with the turnover.
“That was a great play,” Mularkey said. “Really, not just the interception, which was a great break on the ball. But for him to get up and run like he did, for a rookie … Just a really heads-up play for a young player like that.”
Jason McCourty, Marcus Mariota Are Satisfied with Preseason Win
While preseason games carry certain merits — football teams prepare for the regular season; starters mentally and physically gear up for game time conditions; and players at the bottom of the depth chart vie for a position on the roster — they do not impact a team’s standing for the upcoming season.
Nonetheless, Jason McCourty and Marcus Mariota noted the significance of Saturday night’s win for a franchise that has won only five games during the past two seasons. For Mariota, the win brings confidence; for McCourty, a habit of success.
“I think it’s a confidence booster,’’ Mariota said. “Guys are starting to believe what is going on around here. It is only the first preseason game, but if we are able to do what we are capable of doing on the field, our goals are definitely attainable.”
“The wins don’t count, it’s preseason,” McCourty said, “but winning is a habit, so I think whether we win on the scoreboard or not, we want to have winning plays out there. This game I think from the first quarter on, you saw — no matter who was in the game — guys doing the right thing [and] making winning plays.”