NEW ORLEANS – In the Big Easy, the Titans made it hard on themselves.
The result was a 16-15 season-opening loss to the Saints.
Mistakes, turnovers, and red zone failures ended up dooming the Titans on Sunday.
“We have to play a lot better,” Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said. “We have to come up with some more plays. Defensively, we have to match another defense that is excellent. We didn’t do very well in the red zone. … We have to get a stop (on defense) late. … We’ll have to play better, and we will.
“But I don’t think we gave it away. Just too many mistakes.”
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill was intercepted three times, and he was also sacked three times.
The Titans were just 2-of-12 (16.7 percent) on third down on Sunday.
“It’s a sick feeling in your gut obviously,” said Tannehill, who completed 16-of-34 passes for 198 yards with no touchdowns, the three interceptions, and a 28.8 passer rating. “We didn’t go out and play the way we wanted to play. We weren’t good enough in the red zone, missed opportunities, mistakes, all of it. We have to be better in a lot of different areas.
“I have to give a lot of credit to them – they played a good game. But at the end of the day I have a lot of faith in my guys, in myself, that we can execute better than we did.”
Titans running back Derrick Henry carried the ball 15 times for 63 yards in the contest, and he also caught two passes for 56 yards.
“They were the better team today, and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had,” Henry said. “We have to be better.”
The Titans also committed six penalties for 45 yards, and they gave up plays at inopportune times, including a pair of third down conversions to the Saints late.
With the struggles scoring in the red zone, kicker Nick Folk provided all the points – three field goals in the first half and two more in the fourth quarter.
On this day, it wasn’t enough.
The Titans were disruptive on defense early, with four sacks in the first half and a big interception by safety Amani Hooker.
Arden Key had 1.5 sacks in the first half, and he also knocked the ball from Saints quarterback Derek Carr’s grasp on what looked like a fumble, but officials ruled it an incomplete pass. Denico Autry was also credited with 1.5 sacks in the first half, and Jeffery Simmons tallied as sack for the Titans as well.
The Titans took a 3-0 lead just over a minute into the game on a 50-yard field goal by Folk.
The score was set up by Hooker forcing a turnover on the opening kickoff when he ripped the ball out of the hands of Saints return man Rashid Shaheed.
The Saints responded with a long scoring drive that was capped off with a 26-yard field goal by kicker Blake Grupe a few minutes later.
The Titans then turned in an 11-play, 66-yard drive that ended with another field goal by Folk, this one from 27 yards, and it was 6-3 Tennessee at the 3:07 mark of the first quarter.
Another Grupe field goal made it 6-6 midway through the second quarter before Folk added his third field goal of the game, a 31-yard kick, making it 9-6 Titans with 1:40 remaining in the first half.
The Titans held a 9-6 halftime lead after Hooker intercepted Carr in the closing moments.
After Tannehill’s second interception of the game, Grupe kicked another field goal, this one from 52 yards, and the Saints tied the game at 9-9.
The Saints made the Titans pay after Tannehill’s third interception of the game, as Carr connected with Rashid Shaheed for a 19-yard touchdown pass to make it 16-9 with 1:23 left in the third quarter.
A 45-yard field goal by Folk made it 16-12 with 11:12 remaining, and then Folk’s fifth field goal of the day made it 16-15 with 2:17 left.
On this day, however, the Titans needed at least one touchdown, and they didn’t get it.
And the team couldn’t get a late stop to get the ball back.
“I am confident that we are going to bounce back after this,” Simmons said. “There is no frustration – I am not frustrated at all. I hate to lose, of course, we just gave up some X plays…
“I am not frustrated. I am motivated because there were a lot of positives in this game. We are going to stick together and we are going to work to find a way to win next week.”
The Titans face the Chargers next Sunday at Nissan Stadium.