Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel held a day-after-game presser following their first loss of the season to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Titans lost 27-24, despite a second-half rally outscoring Pittsburgh 17-3. A Stephen Gostkowski missed field goal at the end of the game negated a chance at overtime.
Here are some of the topics that were addressed.
THIRD DOWN DEFENSE
The most infuriating thing about the Tennessee Titans season so far is third down defense. The Steelers converted 13 out of 18 third down opportunities versus Tennessee. That’s been a constant theme for the Titans.
Want a depressing stat about the #Titans abysmal third down defense?
They could stop their opponent’s next 37 third down attempts and it would only get their season long conversion rate to league average.
I’ve never seen anything like this on any level of football.
— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) October 26, 2020
“It’s all got to be tied together,” Vrabel said, “We got to have eleven guys executing. We’ve got to coach better and we got to execute better.”
The Titans are 5-1, so it hasn’t hurt them much. If they want to continue winning games and elevate themselves to probable Super Bowl attendees, they need to fix it fast.
Adoree Jackson was placed onto the designated to return list last week and participated in practice. However, he was not activated on Saturday ahead of the game which indicated the Titans felt he wasn’t ready just yet.
Now that they have an upcoming game with a red-hot rookie quarterback-wide receiver tandem in Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins, Jackson’s return seems like a necessity.
“Hopefully the extra week will give him an advantage to be able to with us,” Vrabel said, “We’ll see how that goes throughout the week and what it looks like when we practice on Wednesday.”
Paul Kuharsky reported on Monday afternoon that rookie cornerback Kristian Fulton will miss some time due to a knee injury.
Kristian Fulton will miss a few weeks with knee injury. Unclear if he will require an IR stay. #Titans.
— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) October 26, 2020
That means Adoree Jackson will be very much needed this Sunday in Cincinnati.
INEFFECTIVENESS OF CLOWNEY, LANDRY, AND BEASLEY
The Tennessee Titans made two investments in their pass rush this past offseason by signing Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney. They also had an emerging pass rusher in Harold Landry.
So far, the sack numbers have been less than stellar and we are near the halfway point of the season.
Vrabel is hoping that by fixing other issues on defense, the sack numbers will begin to rise as a result.
“What I’m focused on is improving in the areas that we have to improve on,” Vrabel said, “Part of that is third down, and our ability to affect the quarterback, and with that hopefully those sack numbers come up.”
Landry, Beasley, and Clowney all have a combined 1.5 sacks for the Titans this season.
Taylor Lewan’s ACL injury hurt the Tennessee Titans’ offensive line. Yet, the Titans had confidence in backup Ty Sambrailo to come in and get the job done.
Sambrailo’s first test was against a really good defensive front from Pittsburgh, and Vrabel liked what he saw.
“Appreciate what he did and how he played,” Vrabel said, “He’s played through the course of the year at different times which probably got him ready for that. If we get that type of play from Ty (Sambrailo) going forward it would be a huge positive.”
The Tennessee Titans added kicker Stephen Gostkowski this offseason, and it’s been an up-and-down rollercoaster to his tenure so far.
One moment he’s the villain, next moment he’s the hero. That was evident in week one when he missed four field goals and an extra point, only to kick the game winner.
Versus Pittsburgh, he cost his team a chance to send a crucial game into overtime after they rallied to within three.
Mike Vrabel echoed his week one stance on Gostkowski, remaining confident in his former teammate.
“We have a lot of confidence in Steve, he’s been hitting the ball well,” Vrabel said, “Just unfortunately didn’t make it.”
THE CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Tennessee Titans go on the road for the first time since September 27th to take on the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals boast a very talented quarterback in Joe Burrow, who has 2,023 yards and nine touchdowns to five interceptions on the season.
The Titans’ secondary and third down defense will be tested by Burrow and his favorite target, Tee Higgins, on Sunday.
“(They have) talented, really good receivers,” Vrabel said, “it’s a new opponent to prepare for, somebody that we haven’t faced. So we’ll have to put a lot of work in and continue to focus and improving.”
Heading into this game, the Bengals have the 24th ranked defense in the NFL. Their rush defense, ranked 28th in the league, being their biggest weakness.
It could be a big day for Derrick Henry and the Titans run game if they can exploit that.
The Titans defense will also have their work cutout for them as the Bengals boast the 13th best passing offense in the NFL.
The Tennessee Titans will need to avoid two consecutive losses to the AFC North. This game is crucial to stay ahead in the division, stay competitive in the AFC, and get rid of the nasty taste in their mouths after a heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh.
Featured image by Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports