NASHVILLE – Whatever the Tennessee Titans are doing at halftime this season, it might be time to consider some changes.
That’s a pretty simplistic attitude, of course, but there is a real problem here. The Titans have struggled mightily through three second halves this season.
The latest example came in Sunday’s 24-22 win over Las Vegas, when they were shut out for the final 30 minutes, barely claiming victory despite a two-touchdown lead at halftime.
Overall, the Titans have now been outscored by a combined 57-7 in the second halves of three games, and haven’t scored a post-halftime point since the third quarter of the opener against the Giants.
“I know we won and stuff, (but) not a lot of guys are pleased with our ending,” wide receiver Robert Woods said Sunday. “So it’s just a start, obviously. We’ve started fast before, scoring on our first drives. This time we started fast for a half.
“We’ve just got to make some corrections and play a full four quarters. Obviously we played complete football – whether it’s offense, defense or special teams. But we just need it for four quarters.”
The difference between halves on offense could not have been more drastic against the Raiders.
In five first-half possessions, the Titans scored four times – driving 85, 75 and 79 yards for touchdowns before adding a Randy Bullock field goal in the closing seconds. The Titans piled up 275 yards of offense, totaled 16 first downs and converted three-of-four third-down opportunities.
Ryan Tannehill threw for 195 yards in those first two quarters, with Derrick Henry adding 64 rushing yards.
“We came out with the ball well, efficiently scored points early in the game, and it's just we took advantage of the situation at the end that got points at the end of the half, which was huge,” Tannehill said.
The second half began ominously, however. Two penalties on the opening drive – 12 men in the huddle and an ineligible downfield receiver – preceded a Tannehill interception on a third-and-11 throw
Things never got a lot better for the offense. That unit managed three first downs in 30 minutes, converted two of six third-down opportunities and totaled just 86 yards.
How does that happen?
“We kind of got behind the chains a little bit and they brought some different looks (defensively),” coach Mike Vrabel said. “We had to be anticipating some things would change at halftime. We just weren't able to make productive plays on first down and extend some drives. Then (we had) the turnover there, but we battled through it.”
Through three games, the Titans have scored 44 points in the first and second quarters, compared to the single touchdown in the second halves. They have totaled 33 first downs in the first halves, just 17 in the second halves.
“We’ve got to do it the second half,” center Ben Jones said. “We’ve got to keep our foot down. We’ve got to start the first play on each drive with positive plays. We can’t keep getting behind the sticks. So, we have to be better in the second half.”
|First-half Offense||First-half Defense||Second-half Offense||Second-half defense|
The second-half issues have been most glaring on offense, but the Titans have struggled defensively in the third and fourth quarters as well.
They’ve allowed just 27 points in 90 minutes of first-half play but gave up 21 after halftime to the Giants in Week 1, 24 to the Bills in Week 2 and 12 to the Raiders.
The Titans stifled Las Vegas for most of the first half Sunday, allowing 130 yards and nine first downs. But the defense surrendered 266 yards and 15 first downs over the final two quarters as the Raiders held possession for 17:48 during that stretch.
The good news for the Titans’ defense is that it remained effective on third down, limiting the Raiders to just one conversion in 12 third-down attempts for the game.
The not-so-good news? The Raiders converted three of three fourth-down chances, including Derek Carr’s 48 yard-completion to Mack Hollins on fourth-and-15 with 2:13 left. That completion set up the final touchdown.
“Just the (explosive) plays, the deep penalties, the fourth-down conversions,” Vrabel said of the defensive issues. “(The defense) is really good, and then it's really not very good. We have to figure out what that is, if we're relaxing or what.
“There are some opportunities in there where it looks like defense, and it looks like we know what we're doing. Then other times there are lapses and we have to eliminate the lapses.”
The bottom line is that the Titans came away winners when both Dylan Cole and Kevin Byard deflected Carr’s potentially game-tying, two-point conversion pass attempt with just over a minute left.
The narrow final margin of victory showed the Titans had done enough in the first half – barely – to avoid succumbing to another second-half swoon.