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Back in February, Mike Mularkey declared that his vision for Tennessee offense would be something best described as exotic smashmouth.  Then, the Titans passed on 2 out of every 3 plays in a week 1 loss to the Vikings.

Since then, Tennessee has been more run-heavy each week, culminating in a very run-heavy performance in week four. Against Houston, the Titans finished with 32 runs and 30 passes (tho that includes three Marcus Mariota scrambles), despite trailing for most of the game.  Tennessee had a Game Script of -5.8, yet was the only losing team with 30 rushing attempts this week.

Is it working? That’s tough to say: the Titans had 32 carries for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns, which sounds pretty good; meanwhile, Mariota had 196 net passing yards on 30 dropbacks with an interception and no touchdowns, which represents a league average NY/A gain.   So the running game may be a strength for the team, and the passing game may be a weakness; if that holds up, exotic smashmouth makes sense.

On the other hand, taking a big picture look at the Tennessee offense, and it is not good: The Titans are 31st in scoring, and that’s despite ranking 4th in rushing yards and 3rd in yards per carry.

Below are the week 4 game scripts data:

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio
  • The Steelers had a season-high 24.5 Game Script against the Chiefs.  Pittsburgh led 22-0 at the end of the first quarter, and then 29-0 at halftime.  It was 36-0 entering the 4th quarter, and a Kansas City touchdown in the final seconds was the only thing that brought the final margin below 30.
  • In addition to the Titans, the Cowboys and 49ers were both run-heavy in their game in San Francisco. In fact, it was easily the most run-heavy game of the season, with 13 more runs than pass attempts (excluding sacks).  The 49ers led for much of the game, and Blaine Gabbert himself had 12 runs (with only one kneel). Given the choice between running with Carlos Hyde or passing with Gabbert, the 49ers were understandably content to give Hyde the rock.  For Dallas, the same principle applies: feeding rookie Ezekiel Elliott seems more reasonable than putting the games in the hands of Dak Prescott, who has excelled but with limited responsibilities.
  • Atlanta, San Diego, and Pittsburgh stuck out for being pass-happy, which makes sense given Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Antonio Brown.  Despite a massive blowout, Pittsburgh still passed more than it ran. San Diego lost but had a positive game script: And yet, the Chargers had 46 passes against 22 runs, which was mostly a reflection of the efficiency of the two methods (6.7 yards per dropback vs. 1.8 yards per carry). And the Falcons, in a huge blowout, still had 40 pass plays (including sacks).  Then again, when those 40 plays gain 481 yards, it makes some sense to keep throwing the ball.

What stands out to you?

{ 1 comment }
  • Richie

    “Atlanta, San Diego, and Pittsburgh stuck out for being pass-happy, which makes sense given Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Antonio Brown.”

    Although, makes a little less sense given Le’veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams.