JOE BIDDLE: A West Coast whuppin’

(Photo: WKRN)

The Titans only have themselves to blame for getting their hats handed to them in San Diego.

Turnovers and penalties will kill any mediocre NFL team that has very little margin for error.

As good and productive as second year quarterback Marcus Mariota was on the Left Coast trip, he was just as culpable of aiding the home team Chargers in a 43-35 loss.

Mariota threw three touchdown passes and ran for another touchdown. He also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble that bounced up into Chargers’ Dwight Lowry lap and Lowry took it 41 yards to the house for a 33-21 advantage.

It was the seventh time Mariota had fumbled the ball this season. Four of them ended up in enemy hands.

But Mariota doesn’t bear all of the blame. How about the 10th best defense in the NFL giving up 43 points?

They gave up a career high 196 yards to San Diego running back Melvin Gordon, who had a touchdown and a long gain of 47 yards.

“We were very balanced today,’’ Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers said. “We felt like it was going to be to our advantage. It was a complete game on both sides of the ball and it was a game we had to have and we got it done.’’

The Titans are just good enough to get to 4-4 and gain some modicum of momentum, only to fall back to teams they are just not able to make the plays they need to keep the juice flowing.

The 4-5 Titans are still a work in progress. In all three phases.

Mariota is still going through some growing pains. I still contend he will be the closest thing to a franchise quarterback this franchise has had since the late Steve McNair.

Mariota doesn’t have break-away receivers at his disposal. He doesn’t have even one wide receiver that can get away in space. The Titans have some “B’’ receivers, but until they get wideouts with afterburners and sticky hands, such as Julio Jones, they will struggle to put teams away.

Coach Mike Mularkey tweeted that “Mariota has to learn to tuck the ball away.’’

Duh. That’s a given. But what are they doing to ensure Mariota makes it second nature to keep a firm grip on the ball. One college football coach I remember made a fumble prone running back sleep with a football and take it to every class during the day.

In this game, the Titans got off to a slow start, falling behind 16-0 early on. San Diego scored three times on its first three possessions. The Titans’ first three possessions ended up with zero points to show.

Former Vanderbilt defensive back Casey Hayward picked a Mariota pass off and returned it to the Titans’ 17-yard line. The Chargers scored on four of their first six possessions.

It was 19-14 at halftime and the Titans were playing catch-up to the end.

They would take one step forward, two steps back. That’s no way to win NFL games.

Green Bay, who lost to the Colts Sunday, comes to Nissan Stadium next Sunday.

The Titans need to get their act together by then and get a win over a team that has a history of knowing how to win.

Joe Biddle is a sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at