SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- It's often hard to watch the Tennessee Titans' offense. But when it's clicking, like it was Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers for three consecutive scoring drives beginning late in the second quarter and going throughout the second half, the Titans look like the talented, diverse offensive team we thought they would be at the start of the season.
We need to see more of that. It's the difference between a playoff team and one that is sitting at home to start January. The Titans' offense played well enough to win in their 25-23 loss to the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo going wild on the Titans' defense played a big role in the defeat, but the game wouldn't have been that tight if the up-tempo, no-huddle offense Tennessee featured in the second half had been the focus in the first half.
"I’d rather have Marcus calling the shots," Matthews said. "There’s proof in the success when that happens. I’d like to do no-huddle more. I know we’d all like to do it more. We definitely talk about it a lot. Sometimes we go into it a lot. Sometimes we don’t. This game we stayed in it, and I feel like we were pretty good when were in it."
Multiple Titans offensive players agreed with the general basis of Matthews' assessment. There also was some agreement with Matthews' saying that the Titans got too conservative on their final offensive possession, particularly on a third-and-2 on which they essentially settled for a go-ahead field goal.
It will be interesting to see how much the Titans' coaching staff is willing to adjust with the playoff hunt becoming much more difficult.
The Titans scored three points and accumulated 72 yards on 18 plays in three drives to start the game before they switched to the no-huddle. In the three subsequent drives after they switched primarily to a no-huddle offense, the Titans put up 17 points and gained 225 yards on 32 offensive plays.
"That's just something we felt like going in was a good way to attack them," Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said of the success in the no-huddle. "That was part of the game plan."
Mariota, who played well in the loss, has some audible control, and the coaching staff thoroughly discusses the game plan with him every week. It largely remains consistent with the scheme along with some package plays sprinkled in. Mariota calls all the plays when the Titans go no-huddle or up-tempo, per left tackle Taylor Lewan.
"We were very efficient," Mariota said. "It's a package we practice every single day. Guys trust it, and I thought we did a good job being able to execute."
No-huddle certainly won't become a full-time feature of the Titans' offense. We've seen that sort of plan flame out with Chip Kelly in Philadelphia and San Francisco. But there is potential for more use of it, particularly when Mariota looks so comfortable in that position.
"If that’s getting the offense going and moving the ball and putting points on the board, why not," tight end Delanie Walker said.
With the Titans (8-6) trying to find their way into the playoffs, Mariota's comfort and success should be more important than staying firm to the scheme.