Erik Bacharach, Nashville Tennessean
Published 11:41 p.m. ET Sept. 19, 2019 | Updated 11:43 p.m. ET Sept. 19, 2019CLOSE
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USA TODAYJACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The mantra has been “good to great,” a tagline for this Tennessee Titans team to plaster all over its facility in 2019 as it looks to take the next step.They took a step on “Thursday Night Football” — squarely in the wrong direction.The offense was punchless. The punt-returning was anxiety-inducing. And the execution? Pretty miserable.Tennessee’s record the past three seasons, 9-7, is starting to look pretty darn good.With a 20-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field, the Titans fell to 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the AFC South. The Jaguars, meanwhile, earned their first win of the season.THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Tom Brady turned off game because of the refsWEEK 3 PICKS: Who wins battle of 2-0 teams?FOOTBALL FIX: NFL news delivered to your inboxAutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideHere are five observations:Why is Adoree’ Jackson still returning punts?In 2018, Adoree’ Jackson back to return meant an increased heart rate for Titans fans. That feeling persists into 2019.Jackson, a year after struggling mightily as a punt returner, has looked no better to begin this season.On his first punt return of the night, he muffed the catch and Jacksonville recovered. A play later, Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end James O’Shaughnessy.He was back to receive on three more punts, two of which went for fair catches. On his fourth punt return, Jackson opted to let the ball bounce at the 37-yard line, a big error in judgement. The ball bounced to the 20-yard line, where it was downed.Adam Humphries replaced Jackson thereafter and had one fair catch.— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) September 20, 2019Sacks galoreThe sacks keep coming.Mariota was sacked a whopping nine times Thursday as a confluence of factors continue to work against the Titans’ pass attack.The rest of the league still has to play this weekend, obviously, but Mariota has now been sacked 17 times this season, seven more times than anyone else in the league.Right guard Jamil Douglas, who was victimized by Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell often on Thursday, eventually was pulled from the game in the fourth quarter.Ryan Tannehill teasesAt one point in the third quarter, Ryan Tannehill stood side by side with Mariota, the two quarterbacks both in helmets.No. 8 stayed in the game.Mariota finished 23-of-40 passing for 304 yards while operating an almost entirely punchless offense. He manufactured one scoring drive – a seven-play, 66-yarder that culminated with a Derrick Henry rushing touchdown — in the fourth quarter, but that was it.The questions about replacing Mariota with Tannehill, arguably the league’s top backup quarterback, will only intensify in volume after this one.Malcolm Butler gets burnedAfter a tough start to last year, cornerback Malcom Butler strung together a solid second half of 2018.Thursday night represented something closer to the first-half version of Butler.He was beaten twice and in two costly situations. The first came in the first quarter, when he was beat down the left sideline by DJ Chark Jr., who caught a 22-yard touchdown pass over Butler from Gardner Minshew. The two Jaguars hooked up again in the third quarter for a 37-yard gain.Bad calls kill TitansTwo penalties — both of which seemed awful — burned the Titans in this one.Kamalei Correa hit Minshew just as he released a pass in the second quarter, a seemingly textbook example of how to hit the quarterback legally But no dice. He was flagged for roughing the passer, and the Jaguars were gifted 15 yards.In the fourth quarter, Logan Ryan was called for pass interference against Dede Westbrook, though he didn’t appear to interfere with him in the slightest. It gave the Jaguars a free 26 yards on third down and helped them set up a field goal that pushed the score to 20-7 with 7:34 left.Follow the Tennessean’s Erik Bacharach on Twitter @ErikBacharach.AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideIf you love talking football, we have the perfect spot for you. Join our Facebook Group, The Ruling Off the Field, to engage in friendly debate and conversation with fellow football fans and our NFL insiders.
Erik Bacharach, Nashville Tennessean