Titans Coach Mike Munchak had a number of areas where he wanted to see marked improvement between Game 1 and Game 2 of preseason games.
Although there were glimmers of hope on offense, Jake Locker & Co. could account for only three points in the first half.
“We just hurt ourselves. We moved the ball well at times and ran the ball well. But when it came time to finish the drive, we had two penalties, a drop, a ball thrown that should have gone for a first down on third and three, but instead we went for the home run,'' Munchak said. “We just weren't finishing.''
There were limited signs of improvement on defense. Tackle Jurrell Casey had a sack, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Despite Casey's heroics, the Titans gave up 17 unanswered points to trail 17-3 at intermission.
“We started off good with a turnover. We were hoping to get some points on the board, but we didn't do that. It seemed like the defense never got into a rhythm after that,'' Munchak observed.
“We couldn't get stops and we couldn't make plays.''
And, the kicking game? It stunk. The Titans hit their first field goal attempt of 44 yards, then proceeded to miss the next three in a row. Mr. Reliable, Rob Bironas, was one for three and gave way in the first half to Maikon Bonani, who misfired on his first half attempt.
All in all, the Bengals were the more aggressive team. They were the more proficient team. They were coming off a preseason road win in Atlanta and maintained the momentum in taking out the Titans, 27-19.
The Titans took the opening kickoff and drove it down field before stalling in the red zone and watching Bironas snap hooking his 44-yard field goal attempt.
With most of both team's starters taking a seat at halftime, the second half isn't worth discussing.
So, it's two preseason games down, two to go. The final scores don't necessarily tell the story. But the Titans have trailed at halftime in both games so far. That is not what you want to see with your starters going against the opponents' starters.
There is, or should be, growing concern among the Titans coaching staff.
The first half numbers didn't look all that bad. Cincinnati had 14 first downs to the Titans nine. The Bengals rolled up 220 yards in the first half. The Titans had 182 yards, as Locker was 12 of 20 for 116 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. In the first two games, Locker hasn't made the number of big plays he will have to in order for the team to win regular season games.
The running game was adequate, not great. Chris Johnson had seven carries for 30 yards. His long run was 17 yards, leaving him gaining only 13 yards on six carries. That won't get it, even though the strength of Cincinnati's defense is its physical front line.
Backup Shonn Greene had 29 yards on six carries, including some tough inside yardage.
The veteran receivers had too many drops. Kenny Britt dropped two deliveries right in his hands. He had one catch for 13 yards. They need to help Locker instead of hurt him.
Wide receiver Damian Williams was solid against the Bengals backups in the second half. He deserves a shot to get in the rotation when it counts and see the results.
At halftime, Munchak could not have been pleased with what he saw. Second year receiver Kendall Wright and starting linebacker Akeem Ayers were escorted to the locker room before halftime. Neither appeared to have a serious injury.
The Titans have time to work out the kinks. They need to concentrate on missing open field tackles, as they give up too many yards after an initial hit. That may be due to the limited live tackling during OTA's and training camp, but then other NFL teams are under the same constraints.
They have Atlanta at LP Field this week and it's during this third game that you will see the starters on both teams go deep into the game. There will be some game planning for Atlanta and vice versa.
The real games are growing closer. Right now, this Titans team is not ready to challenge for a playoff slot. Far from it.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.