Titans' big plays were 'preventable' in Matt LaFleur's view

Head coach laments “critical errors” that led to coverage busts by Packers’ defense

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine

GREEN BAY – Matt LaFleur knew his defense's focus on stopping Titans running back Derrick Henry would leave the Packers' pass coverage a little vulnerable.

But the breakdowns that left multiple Tennessee receivers wide open for big gains Thursday night were not a function of being shorthanded in the back end. They were a result of defenders simply not doing their jobs.

"The thing that's disappointing is just the busts, when you have guys that don't play their responsibility and you get guys running free," LaFleur said Friday heading into a weekend off, the team's first break of any kind during the regular season.

"Those are critical errors."

LaFleur referenced three long pass plays in particular.

The first came on the opening third down of the game, when cornerback Keisean Nixon was supposed to have safety help deep on rookie receiver Treylon Burks. But the coverage partner jumped a short route instead and left Nixon all alone as Burks hauled in a 43-yard completion.

Later, in the third quarter, a defender in the flat stayed with a short hook route rather than run with tight end Chig Okonkwo, who was wide open down the sideline for 31 yards.

Then on the Titans' next possession, two defenders closed on the short route coming out of a two-man stack, leaving receiver Robert Woods all alone for 32 yards.

"Explosive plays typically lead to points, and I want to say they scored on every one of those drives," LaFleur said, which the Titans did, getting 20 of their 27 points on those possessions as QB Ryan Tannehill eventually rolled up 333 passing yards on the night.

"It was extremely disappointing to have those coverage busts and to give up those explosion plays when those are preventable."

The easy pitch-and-catch plays were frustrating beyond measure. They were also very different, as LaFleur gave another example, from a third-and-10 in the second quarter, when safety Rudy Ford had tight coverage on tight end Austin Hooper on an out route.

Off Tannehill's well-placed high throw, Hooper hauled in a tough catch right at the first-down marker (the Packers won a spot challenge, making it fourth-and-short, which the Titans converted).

"Credit to them. That happens. That's the National Football League. You can live with that," LaFleur said. "You don't want it to happen, but you can live with it because you're in position, they're making a contested catch.

"It's when it's not contested that I have a problem with, especially when it's a bust."

LaFleur didn't absolve the coaching staff of blame for the breakdowns, saying everything regarding the teaching and communication of how to defend those route combinations should be examined.

But in the same breath, he suggested he knows the players have been taught properly, and that personnel and playing time decisions are on the table moving forward.

"You've got to look at that portion of it, making sure we have the right people in the game, so that doesn't happen," he said. "We've got to give ourselves a chance.

"It's frustrating when I know it's being communicated the right way and it's just not executed the right way."

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