NASHVILLE — Outcoached. Outplayed. Outgained. Beaten soundly.
The Tennessee Titans just got a big ego check after being routed in their season opener.
Ryan Tannehill was sacked six times, fumbled twice and threw an interceptions as the reigning AFC South Divsion champions found themselves smothered 38-13 by the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
"This is what happens in the National Football League when you don't play well," said coach Mike Vrabel, who began his fourth year in Tennessee.
His message to the Titans was simple: "We'll find out what our culture looks like this week, and when we wake up in the morning and see the guys that want to come to work and guys that want to figure out a way to try to win a football game."
The result was stunning, especially the anemic performance of an offense that was one of the NFL's best in 2020, when Derrick Henry ran for 2,027 yards and was the league's offensive player of the year, A.J. Brown was a Pro Bowl receiver in his second NFL campaign and Tannehill set a franchise record with 40 touchdowns.
The Titans looked even more potent after trading draft picks to the Atlanta Falcons for seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones this summer, and left tackle Taylor Lewan was back after tearing his right ACL in mid-October.
"The excitement was fine, it's warranted," Tannehill said of what looked to be a talented offensive lineuup. "But at the end of the day, you have to come out and you have to do it. And today we didn't do it. So we're going to have a chance to take a real look at the way we performed."
Meanwhile, Arizona quarterback Kylar Murray provided a dazzling hint of how much better he might be in his third NFL season by scoring five touchdowns, and Chandler Jones made it very clear why the Cardinals need to sign him to the new contract he wants — and soon — by tallying five sacks to tie the franchise record.
Murray, the No. 1 draft pick in 2019, tormented the Titans by throwing for 289 yards with a career-high four touchdown passes, two apiece to DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk. Murray's best pass came came early in the third quarter off his back foot on a beautiful floater Kirk simply ran under.
Arizona scored the first 17 points and moved the ball almost at will as Murray either bought time scrambling around until he could find an open receiver or just kept the ball. Tennessee also revamped its defense in the offseason after giving up 51.8% conversions on third down last year — worst in the NFL since 1982 — but on Sunday, the Cardinals were 7-of-13 on third down for a 53.8% rate.
"We've definitely got to watch the film tonight, really be honest and truthful with ourselves, because we just didn't play well and that's the bottom line," said safety Kevin Byard, who had an interception.
Tennessee's offense went three and out — or quicker than that — five times. They got their initial first down of the game off a fake punt. And they may be making another change at kicker after the latest replacement, Michael Badgley, missed a PAT and a field-goal attempt.
The Titans, who last season averaged 396.4 yards (tied for second) and 30.7 points (fourth), didn't allow Tannehill to be sacked more than three times in any game in 2020, with the Titans giving up only 25 sacks total. Other than Lewan's return, the only difference on the offensive line in the opener was at right tackle as David Quessenberry started after Dennis Kelly was cut in the offseason for salary cap space.
"We didn't come out and execute in any facet of offense," Tannehill said. "Missed opportunities, turnovers, the whole thing. We just we didn't execute the way we expect to and the way we need to to win football games."
Chester Rogers led the Titans in receiving yards with 62 and tied Brown with four catches. Brown's 49 receiving yards included a 13-yard touchdown. Julio Jones, who battled injuries last season and was limited at times in the preseason, had three catches for 29 yards.
Henry finished with 58 rushing yards on 17 carries, a yard better than his worst game of 2020. The NFL's back-to-back rushing leader got after his teammates on the sideline in a rare public display by the normally quiet running back.
He made clear the Titans must play better and that "looking lackadaisical, just walking around" isn't acceptable by their standards.
"If that is what it takes, that is what I am going to do," Henry said. "So, you haven't seen me do something like that. I pride myself on being a leader on this team, and if that is what it takes, that what I'll do."