49ers vs. Titans: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Tennessee
For the first time this season, the Tennessee Titans were flat out beaten from start to finish. The usually dominant defense was unable to muster up its normal big plays and the offense remained inept.
Jake Locker made a surprising return to the lineup, missing just two weeks after speculation that he could be out six to eight weeks.
San Francisco appears to be playing at the level that got them to the Super Bowl again and Tennessee was not ready for it.
The loss puts the Titans two games behind the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. With that said let's take a look at how each of Tennessee's positional units performed in the game.
Locker threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns, completing 25 of 41 pass attempts. He also threw an interception to Tramaine Brock on a hitch-and-go route intended for Nate Washington on a pass that was well underthrown.
Locker's stats stand out as some of his best passing numbers of his young career. However, before the fourth quarter, the Titans' longest offensive drive went only 35 yards.
Tennessee's horrific start yesterday continues what is now a three-week trend of not scoring any offensive touchdowns in the first half and putting up 17 points or fewer for an entire game. The Titans offense simply was unable to mount any sustained drives until the fourth quarter, at which point they were trailing 24-0.
The game ends up serving as an opportunity for Locker to become reacclimated with the offense before the Week 8 bye.
Running Back: B
Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene, Darius Reynaud, Jackie Battle
Tennessee never gave themselves an opportunity to establish the running game, when it finally looked as though Chris Johnson was running with authority. Johnson averaged 4.3 yards per carry, finishing the day with 39 yards on just nine carries.
Shonn Greene was given only one carry in his first game back from his Week 1 injury—he gained two yards on the play. Darius Reynaud didn't receive any carries in the game, but puzzlingly enough was inserted into the game as a receiver.
Clearly, the coaching staff felt they could use Reynaud the way Danny Woodhead has been used this season by the San Diego Chargers, but after a dropped pass on the team's first drive, he proved ill-prepared for the role.
Chris Johnson was able to take another short pass and turn it into a touchdown, making a 66-yard dash for the end zone on a screen pass. Johnson had four catches for 71 yards on the day. With Greene back in the lineup, Battle was relegated to a much smaller role than he had become accustomed to.
His contribution to the game was just as inconsequential as Greene's, as he was only able to produce six yards receiving on one reception.
Johnson looked as though he was poised for a big day had the Titans converted some third downs earlier in the game. It is a positive sign for the much-maligned running back.
Wide Receiver: B-
Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Damian Williams, Kenny Britt, Justin Hunter
Kendall Wright has taken over as the focal point of the Titans offense with his ability to consistently break free on short routes and his ability to catch nearly any ball thrown in his general direction.
He is regularly pulling down five-plus receptions a game, and he finished with nine for 98 yards against San Francisco. His emergence as a go-to receiver has made the team's decision of deemphasizing Kenny Britt that much easier.
Britt was targeted twice in the game, making one catch for eight yards. However, his presence wasn't felt until things got snippy between him and a couple of 49ers defenders on back-to-back plays. He was eventually penalized on one and was taken out of the game.
It's very possible this is the last we see of Britt as a Titan. Nate Washington was targeted 10 times but only made three catches for 62 yards. He seems to be struggling to beat defenders on the deep ball and will need to find a way to get himself more involved in the offense during the bye.
The Titans offense seemed bogged done for much of the day, due to play-calling. After Locker's interception, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains seemed to shy away from spreading the field and throwing more deep passes, as the team eventually did in the fourth quarter.
Tennessee would be wise to insert more deep routes into the play-calling and getting Justin Hunter more involved in the offense. Hunter has shown an ability to make catches in traffic and over the top of opposing defenders.
Tight Ends: C-
Since the departure of Frank Wycheck, Tennessee has not been able to find a true talent to feature at the tight end position. Bo Scaife is probably the closest thing to a reliable option, but that's not saying much.
This is Delanie Walker's first year in Tennessee after spending the first seven years of his career with the 49ers. Stepping out of the shadow of Vernon Davis, Walker has been able to consistently pick up about four receptions a game over the last five weeks.
Loggains' offense appears to feature only one tight end, with Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson being used solely for blocking.
Walker was able to catch a 26-yard touchdown against his former team. He made a couple other nice grabs to finish the day with 52 yards.
Seven weeks into the year, it's clear that Walker will never offer huge production. Still, he would serve as a nice option in the offense, provided the running game can get to working the way the coaching staff anticipates.
On a side note: Walker was charged with a 10-yard penalty on 2nd-and-3 on the 49ers 47. Two plays later, Locker was sacked on a play where another penalty was declined and the Titans were forced to punt.
The score was 3-0 at this juncture.
Offensive Line: C
Michael Roos, Andy Levitre, Brian Schwenke, Chance Warmack, David Stewart
Rookie center Brian Schwenke made his regular-season debut, taking over the starting role for, Rob Turner, the 32nd ranked center in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus. The hobbled Jake Locker was sacked three times in the game, but did a solid job of giving him protection overall.
While the unit was not solely responsible for the team's 10 penalties for 100 yards, they were charged with two costly penalties of the 10-yard variety (two others were declined), according to ESPNs drive charts.
With Schwenke in the lineup, the offensive line appeared better suited to open up running lanes but were not given much opportunity to do so in this game. With two weeks to prepare for the next opponent, perhaps the offensive line will continue to show improvement in Week 9.
Defensive Line: C-
Antonio Johnson, Ropati Pitoitua, Jurrell Casey, Kamerion Wimbley, Mike Martin
The Titans normally stout defensive line was unable to muster any of the pressure that has helped them to their top-10 ranking up until this week. The 49ers offensive line was the unit's toughest test to date, and they proved to be overmatched.
Colin Kaepernick had plenty of time to throw. Aside from the Niner QB doing damage with his legs, Tennessee's defensive front was stout against the run. Frank Gore averaged just 2.9 yards per carry on 24 carries but had two touchdowns. Kaepernick galloped for another 68 yards and a score of his own.
With Derrick Morgan sitting out, there is clear room for improvement, but the blip on an otherwise quality season by this unit is likely just an aberration.
Akeem Ayers, Colin McCarthy, Zach Brown
The linebacker corps receives just as much blame for San Francisco's read-option revival. None of the Titans linebackers were able to keep Kaepernick from breaking free for big runs and Vernon Davis was a threat throughout.
The three did lead the team in tackles, however, but lacked the big play that sidelined starter Moise Fokou seemed capable of delivering. The defense also seemed to miss Fokou's leadership and ability to get the defense lined up properly.
It's an issue that many seemed to overlook, but there's a reason Fokou doesn't leave the field even on passing downs, despite Brown's skill set being better suited for the task.
Jason McCourty, Alterraun Verner, Coty Sensabaugh, Michael Griffin, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson
The Titans tried a variety of options to stop Vernon Davis, including lining Jason McCourty up on him. It appears that only the 49ers running success kept the 49ers tight end from having another huge game.
Bernard Pollard had an interception that may have changed the entire complexion of the game, but it was nullified by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Akeem Ayers. George Wilson was easily overmatched on his attempts to cover Davis.
Overall, the unit was very sound in its coverage. Davis seemed like the only Niner receiver to get open. Anquan Boldin made a few nice grabs on some well-covered throws.
This unit needs the big plays they were getting early in the season to help out the team's weak offense.
Special Teams: D
Darius Reynaud's days as the Tennessee Titans return man are numbered. ESPNs Paul Kuharsky breaks down his poor decision-making throughout the game:
In Sunday’s 31-17 loss to San Francisco, he touched the ball seven times and five of them had bad results.
He also spun and circled back on a punt return that netted him a negative return, allowed a kickoff to bounce over his head, fair caught a lined punt he might have had a chance to do something with, and muffed a late punt when the Titans were threatening to make it a game that instead produced a 49ers special teams touchdown.
The unit had a pair of penalties that cost the team some yardage, but that has become typical at this point in the season. The Titans do not have the type of offense to overcome these kinds of gaffes.
Damian Williams doesn't appear to be the most fleet of foot, despite his position as the No. 2 return man. We could see a bit of a battle for the duties during the bye week.