The Titans path to the playoffs was clear. After losing two games west of the Mississippi River, they had two home games remaining and to clinch a playoff spot, they had to win one of those games.
The Los Angeles Rams were standing in their way.
A 27-23 loss to the revived Rams Sunday left the Titans with one game remaining in the regular season. They have to beat longtime rival Jacksonville at Nissan Stadium next Sunday, or they will be home for the playoffs.
Lose to the Jaguars and it will leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. That would leave them with an all too familiar 8-8 regular season record. That would mean winning eight games and discovering how to lose eight stinkers.
Titans ownership needs to take a deep look at what direction they want to see. Do they let the coaching staff hang around when it is clear that this team could have been more successful than it will wind up? Even if they win next Sunday and make the playoffs, it won’t be enough. A heavily favored AFC South team will wipe the floor with these Titans.
Fans are getting weary of plays – callers keep running up the middle when even they often fail to get the short yardage needed to keep drives alive.
There were a lot of empty seats Sunday at Nissan Stadium. It will likely be the final home game for the Titans. Even if they beat the Jaguars, they will be on the road and their chances are slim and none, and Slim just left town.
“In a lot of ways I’m disappointed for these guys,’’ Coach Mike Mularkey said after the game.
“We fell short in a number of ways.’’
One way was converting on only one of four red zone trips. The Rams were three of four. “Big difference in the game,’’ Mularkey said. “Definitely the difference in the game.’’
There were enough questionable plays called from the Titans sidelines for the ownership to see there are changes needed.
Example: Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota on the Titans first possession, second play. A no-huddle call on second down floated over the intended receiver and Rams linebacker Cory Littleton picked it off, leading to the Rams scoring a touchdown on their next possession.
Mariota admitted he wanted to find a way to pull that pass back, but then he has been blaming himself for a number of weeks.
He completed 22 of 39 passes for 275 yards, no touchdowns and a 67.8 rating. Rams quarterback Jared Goff connected on 22 of 38 passes for 301 yards, four touchdowns and a 118.4 rating.
“We kind of let three (games) slip away,’’ Mariota said. “It is what it is. This (Jacksonville game) is our season.’’
It’s a shame the Titans could not win one of the past three games, two of them against inferior teams.
The Rams rose to 11-4. The Titans are left licking their wounds.
Bah, humbug, I say. I will leave it at that.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at email@example.com.