TitansOnline.com Senior Writer and Editor Jim Wyatt offers six hot topics from head coach Mike Mularkey’s Monday afternoon press conference.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans coach Mike Mularkey met with reporters on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, one day after the team’s 16-10 loss to the Dolphins.
Here’s a look at six hot topics as he looked ahead to next Monday’s game against the Colts:
Questionable callsMularkey was asked about an unfortunate sequence of calls that went against the Titans, and changed the game early on Sunday.
Mularkey said Smith was just running a route, and “you see it all the time.”
Two plays later, Cassel was hit as he threw the ball, and it initially looked like it would be ruled an incomplete pass. But officials instead ruled Cassel fumbled the ball forward, and the Dolphins were awarded a touchdown – a 38-yard fumble recovery by safety Reshad Jones.
So instead of the Titans leading 7-3, they trailed 10-0.
Mularkey reiterated on Monday his players told him they heard a whistle on the play that was ruled a fumble, which should have blown the play dead. Mularkey said the officials also made no signal on the play. Mularkey said the fact the ball traveled 13 yards forward was another indication it was an incomplete pass, and not a fumble.
“What really gets you is the two defenders that are coming on the field from their sideline, making it 13 defenders on the play,” Mularkey said. “There’s 13 Miami Dolphins on the field when that play is taking place. So their guys thought that was a dead play, too. That is illegal as well, and I am very shocked they didn’t see that in the review – they had 13 players on the field.”
Improved defenseThe Titans stepped it up on defense on Sunday.
The Dolphins managed just 12 first downs, and 92 pass yards, including just 78 net passing yards. The 78 net yards made up the lowest total by a Titans opponent since Sept. 19, 2010. The Titans held the Dolphins to just 5-of-15 on third down, and they played fast.
“Much better communication is the first thing that stands out just watching the tape, watching from the sideline,” Mularkey said. “It is really guys being where they are supposed to be, playing their role.”
Mularkey credited the linebackers and the safeties for the improved communication.
Mularkey also said he thought the Titans, a week after a 57-14 loss to the Texans, gained some of their identity back on the defensive side of the ball.
Running back DeMarco Murray carried the ball 14 times for 58 yards on Sunday. He played 46 of the team’s 59 snaps on offense.
Running back Derrick Henry carried the ball four times for nine yards. He played just 11 snaps.
Mularkey said it was discussed postgame.
“We talked about it after,” Mularkey said. “We probably need to do a better job at getting Derrick some more balls.”
Vs the ColtsThe Colts announced later in the day on Monday that quarterback Andrew Luck won’t play against the Titans.
Jacoby Brissett will start against the Titans on Monday Night Football.
Mularkey said “it’s a big game.”
“It’s a division game, a Monday night game in front of a national TV audience,” Mularkey said. “We have to get back to the basics on offense like we did with the defense this past week. Hopefully we’ll get three phases that play well against Indy.
“You can throw out all the how many in a row. … This will be a good football game.”
I wrote a separate story on this topic on Titans Online, but it can’t be ignored here either.
Mularkey said quarterback Marcus Mariota is “coming along very well.”
Mariota’s availability for the Colts game might not be known until the day of the game, however.
Mularkey once again called Mariota day to day. Mularkey said Mariota, who was inactive on Sunday in Miami, has done more each day on a treadmill.
“Marcus is coming along very well,” Mularkey said. “He has had a couple of good days of rehab, even last night getting back from the game, he came in here and did some things that were a plus, and the same thing today.
“… We’re not going to do anything that is going to set him back. That’s the first thing – I am not going to set him back. I am not going to put him on a timeline on which practice we are looking at (for him). It might be Wednesday, it might be Friday.”
Cassel would start again at quarterback if Mariota’s can’t go.
Cassel completed 21-of-32 passes for 141 yards against the Dolphins, with a touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked six times.
“It would be Matt (as the starter), and everybody around Matt has to play better for Matt,” Mularkey said.
Tackle Taylor Lewan (knee) is “day to day” after being injured in Sunday’s game.
Receiver Corey Davis (hamstring) is “getting close” to returning. The Titans aren’t sure if he’ll be available for Monday’s game, but things are “positive,” per Mularkey.
Safety Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring) is not expected to play vs the Colts.