For first time, Titans' D has no answers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A month ago, Houston made a late charge, found the plays that caught the Tennessee Titans off guard and beat them in overtime. But even for the majority of that game, the Titans' defense caused problems. The group was the backbone of the team through six games in 2013.

In a 31-17 loss Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee’s defense appeared easily figured out.

The Niners held the ball for 35 minutes, 46 seconds against a defense that had held opponents to an average of 30:03.

The Niners converted eight of 16 third downs against a defense that had held opponents to below 30 percent.

The Niners ran for 153 yards against a defense that was allowing the opposition 111.2.

“That’s the first time we played a sloppy ballgame all season,” defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. “We couldn’t get a grasp of what was going on, we couldn’t make the adjustments necessary to stop this offense. We tried to change up who got who and things like that, and it seemed like they had the upper edge all game. … We had a hard time all day with that read-option, letting them out-leverage us and making blocks where their quarterback and running back were just having free holes.”

“They definitely had a good game plan against us,” cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “They executed well. You saw that the quarterback was just waiting to see what type of defense we would be in, then making checks accordingly, then they were just executing. They didn’t do anything exotic. They didn’t do anything really to trick us. They kind of just said, 'We’re going to see what you’re going to do and complement off of that.' Kudos to their game plan, but it wasn’t anything outside the realm of us handling it.”

“Well, shame on us, first of all,” strong safety Bernard Pollard said. “Two weeks in a row, facing the same exact offense, we come out and do the same exact thing. We did a good job of it in Seattle, obviously we did some good things in terms of getting off the field on third down. Today, third down killed us. Allowing this quarterback to scramble. When you’re playing a quarterback like this, you’re not going to get sacks. These quarterbacks are just too elusive to get out of that backfield. We just didn’t do a good job, at all. As a team the thing that continues to show up and creep its little head is we give them points by mistakes.”

The Titans seek to be balanced, but they have relied on their defense. And on a bad defensive day, the offense was ill equipped to match up.

Jake Locker was back in the lineup and finished with a nice stat line -- 326 yards passing, two touchdowns and a 92.1 passer rating. The numbers looked fine at the end, but at halftime the score was 17-0 and the Titans had not advanced beyond the 49ers’ 45-yard line. The offense didn’t show much life until the game was out of hand.

“We’ve got to help our defense out,” said tight end Delanie Walker, a member of the 49ers the previous seven years. “They’ve got a good offense, they’ve got some weapons over there. Us not being able to move the ball and put points on the board until late in the game, that’s not going to help our defense out at all.”