DEN-TEN grades: Titans’ ground game fuels victory

Titans grade well up front and on defense in close win over the Broncos.

| 6 months ago
(Wesley Hitt, Getty Images)

(Wesley Hitt, Getty Images)

DEN-TEN grades: Titans’ ground game fuels victory

Tennessee Titans 13, Denver Broncos 10

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Titans’ 13-10 win over the Broncos in Week 14:

Tennessee Titans

Quarterback grade: Marcus Mariota, 46.2

Mariota’s inaccuracy issues on display in win

The game plan for the Titans going into Sunday was clearly to pound the rock directly at the Denver front seven. The plan largely worked, but quarterback Marcus Mariota was unable to complement the effort by producing anything in the running game. He only completed six passes on the day and struggled throwing into possibly the best secondary in the league. The Titans are going to need more efforts like the previous three games from Mariota if they are going to take the AFC South crown — not like the one we saw on Sunday.

Top offensive grades:

FB Jalston Fowler, 90.2

C Ben Jones, 83.3

G Quinton Spain, 82.8

OT Taylor Lewan, 81.7

OT Jack Conklin, 79.0

Offensive line’s run-blocking stands out in Titans’ win

The Titans’ offense absolutely dominated the time of possession battle in the first half, and that was because of their run-blocking. Four out of five members of the Titans’ starting offensive  line had above-average run-blocking grades, and helped out Mariota by only giving up five pressures on the day. Left guard Quinton Spann led the way with a 85.5 run-blocking grade on the day.

Top defensive grades:

CB LeShaun Simms, 87.4

ED Brian Orakpo, 84.2

LB Wesley Woodyard, 83.1

CB Brice McCain, 81.1

CB Antwon Blake, 79.9

Titans secondary challenged, and makes enough plays to get the win

With the Broncos unable to get their running game going, they chose to challenge the Tiatns secondary. While some Titans CBs struggled (Jason McCourty allowed nine receptions), Brice McCain and LeShaun Simms flourished. Simms only allowed two catches on five targets for four yards, and had two pass breakups. McCain also only allowed two catches, but it was on four targets for 16 yards, and he also had a pass breakup. Simms ended the game with an 87.8 coverage grade, and McCain’s was 80.2 on the day.

Denver Broncos

Quarterback grade: Trevor Siemian, 73.0

Siemain plays well enough to win, but no help given

Trevor Siemian was by no means bad in this game, and he actually played well enough for his team to win, but he did not get the help he needed. WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Bennie Fowler each had opportunities to make big catches on well-thrown balls, but could not come down with the catch. Fumbles by running back Justin Forsett and tight end A.J. Derby in the final drive were also huge hits for the offense. Siemain made enough throws and did not put the ball in danger once, which is a formula that usually ends in victory for the Broncos.

Top offensive grades:

WR Demaryius Thomas, 82.9

G Max Garcia, 78.8

G Michael Schofield, 76.8

QB Trevor Siemian, 73.0

WR Emmanuel Sanders, 73.0

Sanders and Thomas targeted at huge rates in loss

Damaryius Thomas had his highest-graded game of the season on Sunday. He made several nice catches and put his team in position to make plays, but Sanders and Thomas were targeted 14 and 15 times, respectively. Each made 11 catches on the day and were seemingly the only offense that Denver could muster. The Achilles heels for the offense on the day were the two fumbles and the offensive tackles, who allowed 11 total pressures by themselves.

Top defensive grades:

ED Von Miller, 79.5

CB Chris Harris Jr., 78.5

LB Zaire Anderson, 78.5

CB Aqib Talib, 75.1

CB Bradley Roby, 72.8

Pass-rush absent for Denver’s defense in loss

Von Miller graded out well overall on Sunday, but it was not due to his pass rush. Miller, who only had two pressures on the day, had his first below-average game rushing the passer this season. Miller only came up with a 44.5 pass-rush grade. He was stellar in the run game, however, with four run stops and a 92.1 run-defense grade. The reason the Broncos could not tee off rushing the passer was because they were run on so effectively. Jared Crick was the biggest problem in that department, with a 36.4 run-defense grade.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Titans OLB Brian Orakpo

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

  • Rodrigo Campos Pedro

    Yeah…how did the Broncos secondary grade so bad ?
    There have been some questionable grades all over the day “X team’s offense fuels win”
    best grade on X team’s offense is a 75.

    • anon76returns

      Yeah, not very often you see a secondary give up 6 completions on 21 targets and get graded that harshly.

      I’m also curious how the hell Orakpo is the player of the game, after not being mentioned previously in the article.

      PFF pushing out these articles while the late games are still being played seems to be a model that leads to a lot of strange results- I’d rather they take their time and put out something that’s a bit more comprehensible.

      • crosseyedlemon

        The rush to put out these articles isn’t the ideal situation but there is a lot of competition in online sports blogging. Fans will always gravitate to the sites that are most prompt at providing game info so that puts PFF in a bind. They often provide more comprehensive articles later in the week with videos showing why a particular scheme worked for one team or another.

        • T. Kothe

          I’m not sure why PFF should care about being first. Their bread and butter financially is the contracts the league or media or whomever for exclusive use of their full advanced stats, and to some degree their general-availability grades and fantasy content. The game grading articles have got to be one of the least important things for their business model.

          • crosseyedlemon

            Obviously I can’t comment on the business model but it seems to me that game grading would be the foundation which everything else they do is built from. Getting public feedback on that is something they can use to improve their product which is a necessity in a competitive marketplace.

    • Jeff

      There grading system is based of a +/- while starting at 0 and then is converted to a score out of 100. Based off that, a lack of actual throws at each corner does not hurt their grade but it also doesn’t help. When a QB throws <20 passes with probably half of those at actual guys being covered by CB's, PFF will never give them a grade in the 90's (especially if they get penalties).

      • anon76returns

        I’m not sure I follow you on that. Certainly a great pass break-up will get the best grade, but blanketing a receiver on a difficult route concept *should* also get a +0.5 to +1.0 grade. Considering the best CBs in the game usually finish with a season grade less than +30, a couple of good coverage grades without a blemish should be good enough to at least get into the 80 range on the per game grade.
        If I had to guess, it’d be that the secondary’s run defense grades brought down their coverage grades, especially given the disparity in play calls from Tennessee (though presumably Mariota’s 4 scrambles were also due to good coverage).

        • Jeff

          Yea I’m sure the rush defense had something to do with it as well. I also know that a personal foul on a CB will hurt their grade a lot even tho it really had nothing to do with their defense.