The Tennessee Titans are in a hurry. In a hurry to close out the regular season on a high, to clinch a playoff berth and to rewrite the narrative of their underwhelming campaign with a strong postseason run.
But it's not just off the field where Tennessee wants to pick up the pace. The Titans want to hurry in the huddle as well.
"I'd rather have Marcus calling the shots," Titans receiver Rishard Matthews told reporters this week. "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 we're in it."
The defining characteristic of the Titans' 8-6 season has been their inability to capitalize on the potential of their offensive skill position players. Mariota has seen a 15.9-point decline in his passer rating, thrown a career-high 14 picks and struggled to complete tight window throws (league-worst 17.5 passer rating). Tennessee's run game has been inconsistent; the Titans run nearly twice as well in wins than in losses and they still don't know how to balance DeMarco Murray's and Derrick Henry's carries.
Is the answer to the Titans' woes relying on the hurry-up offense, as the players suggested? According to ESPN's Cameron Wolfe, 17 of Tennessee's 23 points in their loss to the 49ers came in three consecutive drives during which no-huddle was the central element of the offense. Wolfe added that "at least three Titans players" have been frustrated with the direction of the offense, but "winning partially hid those issues."
Coach Mike Mularkey told reporters this week that, while the no-huddle was "effective" against San Francisco last week and "they really like it," there are "a number of factors of whether it will be used or not" going forward, one factor being the week-specific game script.
For instance, this week against the high-octane Los Angeles Rams, it might not behoove Tennessee to attempt to slow down the game with quick drives, short or long, and surrender the ball back to Sean McVay's offense more than it has to. Instead, the game plan might be to revert to their two-headed run-first attack. But if that doesn't work?
Tennessee is running out of time to secure a place in the postseason. Sure, the Titans are in pole position among wild-card teams and can clinch with a win, a Ravens loss to Indianapolis and a Bills loss to New England this week. But lose to the Rams and the Titans will be in deep trouble heading into their final test against Jacksonville's league-best defense.