NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Outcoached. Outplayed. Beaten soundly. The Tennessee Titans just got a big ego check after being routed in their season opener.
Ryan Tannehill was sacked six times, fumbled twice and intercepted once as the defending AFC South champs found themselves smothered 38-13 by the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
“This is what happens in the National Football League when you don’t play well,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
His message to the Titans was simple.
“We’ll find out what our culture looks like this week and when we wake up in the morning and see the guys that want to come to work and guys that want to figure out a way to try to win a football game,” Vrabel said.
The result was stunning, especially the anemic performance of an offense that was one of the NFL's best in 2020. Derrick Henry ran for 2,027 yards and was the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year. A.J. Brown was a Pro Bowl receiver in his second season, and Tannehill set a franchise record with 40 touchdowns last year.
The Titans looked even more potent after trading for seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones. And left tackle Taylor Lewan was back after tearing his right ACL in mid-October.
“The excitement was fine, it’s warranted,” Tannehill said of what looked to be a talented offense on paper. “But at the end of the day, you have to come out and you have to do it. And today we didn’t do it. So we’re going to have a chance to take a real look at the way we performed.”
The Titans also revamped their defense after giving up 51.8% conversions on third down — worst in the NFL since 1982. But they allowed Arizona to convert 7 of 13 third downs for a 53.8% rate.
“We’ve definitely got to watch the film tonight, really be honest and truthful with ourselves because we just didn’t play well, and that’s the bottom line,” said safety Kevin Byard who had an interception.
The Titans went three and out — or quicker than that — five times. They got their initial first-down of the game off a fake punt. And they may be making another kicking change after the latest replacement, Michael Badgley, missed an extra point and a field goal.
But Tennessee tied for second with 396.4 yards of total offense per game and ranked fourth averaging 30.7 points a year ago.
The Titans didn't allow Tannehill to be sacked more than three times in any game in 2020 with the Titans giving up only 25 sacks total. The only difference was at right tackle with David Quessenberry starting after the Titans cut Dennis Kelly this offseason for salary cap space.
“We didn’t come out and execute in any facet of offense,” Tannehill said. “Missed opportunities, turnovers, the whole thing. We just we didn’t execute the way we expect to and the way we need to to win football games.”
Henry finished with 58 yards rushing on 17 carries, a yard better than his worst game of 2020. The NFL's back-to-back rushing leader got after his teammates on the sideline in a rare public display by the normally quiet Henry.
He made clear that the Titans must play better and that “looking lackadaisical, just walking around” isn't acceptable by their standards.
“If that is what it takes, that is what I am going to do,” Henry said. “So, you haven’t seen me do something like that. I pride myself on being a leader on this team and if that is what it takes, that what I’ll do.”
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL