Cameron Wolfe, ESPN Staff Writer 292d

Titans not good enough to consistently overcome first-quarter lulls

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A Marcus Mariota pass sailed high, as if the ball had extra air in it, into the hands of Texans safety Andre Hal on the third play of the game. One drive later, Rishard Matthews stumbled through his route to effectively break up what would have been a third-down completion and conversion. The third go-around, center Ben Jones got thrown aside by Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who made a big tackle to stop DeMarco Murray on a third-down, short-yardage run.

The Tennessee Titans' first-quarter offense was once again cold. Whether it was the playcalling, the players not being in rhythm or just flat-out failed execution, the Titans' offense took the first quarter off. And Sunday, that was enough to clinch a loss.

"We can't start like that. We're not a team that can do that right now," left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "We are a good team. It's just about being good consistently."

It was an underlying problem through three games, but it hadn't hurt Tennessee because its defense thwarted the opponent's attack while the offense gained its footing. Luck ran out Sunday as the Texans scored three touchdowns during the first 15 minutes and six seconds of the game to the Titans' zero. It was already in "pass the sticks" territory for what ended up being a 57-14 blowout loss.

“Offensively, we weren’t clicking fast enough," Matthews said. "Once we got going it was a little too late."

The biggest issue seemed to be a lack of rhythm, from the quarterback to the receivers to the offensive line. Individual mistakes led to quick drives, and the Texans quickly jumped ahead. Good teams will do that.

As the Titans go back to work this week, they need to figure out how to get hot out of the gate. Their defense has serious holes, and Mariota is now hampered with a hamstring injury. An offense consistently digging itself out of first-quarter lulls only makes life more difficult.

The Titans' 12 first quarter drives so far this season have ended in eight three-and-outs, an interception, a touchdown and two field goals. That might suffice for a defensive-minded team that can win 17-16 every week. Tennessee is not that team.

This Titans' offense is built around the running game. Murray and Derrick Henry are one of the NFL's top running back duos. The two combined for five carries for 11 yards in the first quarter, which didn't allow Tennessee to lean on it throughout the game.

"We gotta run the ball. And honestly, this offense lives and dies based on its offensive line," Lewan said. "There's a lot riding on games especially when it comes to us, and we gotta play consistent every game."

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