Julio Jones' 'dumb (expletive)' penalty encapsulates Titans' terrible day vs. Cardinals
Tennessee’s acquisition of Julio Jones was hailed as a move that could push the Titans toward legitimate Super Bowl contention.
In Week 1, it didn’t do much more than set them back, at least on one regrettable snap.
Facing a second-and-long situation and a 10-point deficit midway through the first quarter, Tennessee finally saw some positive rushing yards from Derrick Henry to set up a third-and-1. Well, it would have been a third-and-1, had Jones not gotten into a shoving match with the smaller Cardinals defensive back Byron Murphy.
The extracurricular activity earned Jones a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, turning the third-and-1 into third-and-16. The next play, J.J. Watt disrupted a screen, forcing an errant Ryan Tannehill throw into the turf. The defender nearest the incomplete pass? Murphy.
The Titans were forced to punt, and the next time they regained possession, they netted a grand total of five yards before punting again. A rough start became a game-long nightmare offensively and led to a 38-13 season-opening defeat to Arizona.
“That’s absolutely nothing that we coach or teach,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Jones’ penalty on Monday. “So, that would fall into the category of dumb s— that hurts the team, right there, in bold letters.”
Though early, the penalty buried the Titans’ best offensive chance to that point and before long, they’d trail 17-0. At the time of the handoff to Henry, the league’s reigning rushing champ had a total of -2 rushing yards.
Jones wasn’t able to do much of anything in the passing game, either, finishing with three receptions for 29 yards in a stat sheet line that exists as a microcosm of Tennessee’s terrible day.
“We got off to a poor start. It took us a while to play complementary football,” Vrabel explained. “Other than defensively, I would say that we did handle the tempo. I felt like we were ready to go and we subbed when we needed to sub, forced them to use some timeouts but then too many X plays. We didn’t make ’em earn it. We felt like we needed to make ’em earn it.
“And then defensively the third and fourth down, they scored three touchdowns on third down. And then, offensively, just not keeping our poise and composure in winning 1-on-1 and they were more physical and played harder than we did. They won the football game.”
Interestingly enough, after the Cardinals committed enough first-quarter penalties to reach a pace that would’ve smashed through the 10-flag mark, they finished with only one more foul than the Titans. A disorganized first quarter didn’t end up hurting the Cardinals, who got their wits about them and then took to destroying Tennessee.
Arizona arrived with a massive chip on its shoulder and played as if it had spent the entire offseason being treated like the Texans, not the team that just loaded up on veterans and associated expectations. Kyler Murray lit up the scoreboard with his arm and legs. DeAndre Hopkins rose to the occasion to score twice, as did Christian Kirk. Chandler Jones sacked Tannehill five times, forcing two fumbles. His defensive teammates flew around the field, and though it’s trite, the Cardinals truly seemed to want it more than the Titans.
It’s only Week 1, but the Titans did not look like a team with two legitimate stars at receiver and another elite player at running back. They looked like an unprepared and unmotivated bunch.
They’ll need to rediscover their skill and motivation quickly. The Titans have a flight booked for Seattle this weekend.
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