In looking for the bright spots for the Tennessee Titans in their preseason home opener, it came largely from one player – second year receiver Taywan Taylor.
Taylor scored both of the Titans’ touchdowns in Saturday’s 30-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I was just trying to do a good job today of coming out and being ready to go,” said Taylor, who had four catches for 95 yards in the game.
In the first quarter, quarterback Marcus Mariota tossed a bubble screen to Taylor, who turned on the jets and raced past the Tampa Bay secondary en route to a 47-yard touchdown reception.
Taylor’s touchdown was impressive enough that when the NFL sent it out on social media, it was retweeted by NBA superstar LeBron James.
“I just now found out about that,” Taylor said. “My heart kind of jumped a little bit. That’s my favorite player. That’s crazy. I didn’t expect that. That’s definitely a little bit more motivation to do that more often.”
That play was the Titans’ lone score of the first half, and soon after, Mariota and the most of the rest of the first-team offense retired to the sideline for the evening in the 30-14 loss to the Bucs on Saturday night. The loss dropped Tennessee to 0-2 in the preseason with a trip next Saturday to Pittsburgh next up for the Titans.
Mariota was 4 of 7 for 80 yards and the one touchdown.
“We had a plan for him with what we were looking to do and what we were looking to get out of the night,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of his quarterback. “We’d like to run the ball a little better with that first group. But, what we did in the second series – it was good to see. We felt like that was the plan coming in.”
Other than that, there was a highlight here and there for the offense in the first half. Dion Lewis had some nice moves following a reception over the middle for one of his two catches for the night.
He fumbled the ball at the end, but was fortunate that it rolled out of bounds, allowing the Titans to retain possessions.
“He did a nice job. Unfortunately, they had the fumble out of bounds. We have to take care of the ball offensively and have to be able to defend the pass a little better. We have to run the ball on offense,” Vrabel said.
But on the Titans’ first series of the third quarter, it was Taylor again taking a starring role. He caught three passes on the drive, including a 3-yard touchdown toss from Blaine Gabbert to pull the Titans to within 20-14. It was his 29-yard reception that put the Titans into the red zone where he eventually scored.
That was as close as the Titans would get as the Bucs continued to pile up points on their way to a lopsided win.
While the Titans first-teamers played limited roles, several backups, especially on the defensive side struggled, as the Buccaneers rolled up 365 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
Jameis Winston, who played with the Bucs second unit because of his three-game suspension to start the regular season, fired a pair of scores in the second quarter to put Tampa Bay ahead 20-7. Winston, playing against the Titans’ second unit, thrived, going 13 of 18 for 226 yards and the two scores.