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Glennon: Ordinary Offense Won't Cut It For Long

Ryan Tannehill and Co. will need more big plays, more consistent production than they showed Sunday against Jacksonville.

NASHVILLE – In thumping the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-0, the Tennessee Titans put together a dominant defensive effort against a bad offensive team.

But what about the Titans’ offense?

Is there reason to feel more confident about that side of the ball than after they were held to 13 points in back-to-back losses to Houston and New England?

The answer to that may depend on your point of view.

There’s little doubt the Titans’ play against the Jaguars was far more methodical than it was magical, especially when it came to the team’s passing attack. A few examples, with some help from Next Gen Stats:

• Only six of quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s 31 pass attempts traveled more than 10 yards down the field, and only one pass over 20 yards was attempted.

• Tannehill’s 31 attempts were thrown on average 4.5 yards short of the first-down markers, the second-lowest figure in the NFL in Week 14 – trailing only New Orleans’ Taysom Hill (6.3 yards short).

• The Titans produced 263 net yards of offense, the third-lowest figure of the season.

But one could make a pretty good argument that the Titans didn’t need to take many chances offensively against the Jaguars.

That became increasingly clear as the one-sided game went on, with the Titans’ defense played so well – four interceptions, three sacks, 21 quarterback pressures (per Pro Football Focus), eight rushing yards allowed – that not much was required of the offense.

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Why bother trying to push the ball downfield consistently when the offensive line isn’t showing it can protect the quarterback well enough on short passing attempts, let alone give him time on longer routes? Why take a lot of chances throwing the ball if your quarterback has been picked off five times in the past two games?

In other words, the superior defensive effort made it easy for the offense to play it safe.

“You have a plan going in, and you make adjustments as the game is going on and as (Titans coach Mike Vrabel) says, `We’ll do business as business is being done,’” Titans quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara said. “And you adjust. You try to win the surest way. There’s certain factors within the game that determine that, and you make adjustments, and it doesn’t always involve necessarily throwing the ball deep down the field.”

The other way to look at things is that a Titans offense without Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown – and with Julio Jones at less than 100 percent – is still struggling mightily:

• Only two of those six passes Tannehill threw beyond 10 yards, for example, were completed – for a total of just 28 yards.

• The Titans scored a combined three points following the four Jacksonville turnovers.

• The Titans produced one play – a screen pass to Geoff Swaim – of more than 20 yards.

“I know it wasn’t perfect,” Vrabel said. “There was a lot of things that we liked offensively, and we will continue to try to improve there and find the small details. There were some cases where the details got corrected from practice to the game and there were some times where maybe some of the finer points didn’t translate to the game.”

So, whether the Titans pumped the brakes offensively against the Jaguars -- doing only what was necessary to win – or whether they stumbled yet again on that side of the ball, one thing is for sure: better numbers will be required going forward.

The stretch run, after all, looks more difficult than it did just a few weeks ago. There’s a Pittsburgh team playing at home and battling to stay in the playoff race, a 49ers team that’s won four of its last five games, a Dolphins team that’s won five straight, and a Texans team that beat the Titans earlier this season.

Defense won’t be able to dominate each of those contests. It’s time for the offense to get a move on.