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Front Page - Friday, December 9, 2022

Titans headed to playoff one and done

Former Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown reminded Tennessee fans of what they’re missing this season with eight catches for 119 yards and two tochdowns during Sunday’s 35-10 Eagles win. - Photo by Matt Rourke | AP

The good news for the Tennessee Titans is they are going to win the AFC South for the third consecutive season.

The bad news – or maybe the more realistic news – for the Titans is that they probably shouldn’t expect much beyond that for this season.

Sunday’s embarrassing 35-10 loss in Philadelphia should be all the proof needed to show that this Titans team simply does not have the firepower necessary to keep up with the elite offenses in the NFL.

Nor does it have enough left on defense, thanks to injuries and all the extra snaps played due to said impotent offense, to keep the dam from eventually breaking on that side of the ball.

Tennessee is 7-5 and riding a two-game losing streak. Probe a little deeper, and you see that the Titans have beaten only one team that boasts a winning record – the surprising Washington Commanders.

When the Titans have stepped into the ring against the league’s heavyweights – the Bills, Eagles, Bengals and Chiefs – they have been unable to go blow-for-blow against high-powered offenses.

Sure, they came close at Kansas City without Ryan Tannehill, and they could have defeated Cincinnati with a break or two.

But the word is out. This Titans team simply must play near-perfect football just to stay close against the NFL’s better teams. Don’t allow Derrick Henry to get cranked up, and the Titans simply don’t have much of a counter punch.

The Titans will win the AFC South by default and earn the home playoff game that comes with it. They hold an almost insurmountable lead against three teams that have combined for nine wins this season, led by the 4-8-1 Colts and the 4-8 Jaguars.

But after watching Sunday’s shellacking by the 11-1 Eagles, does anyone really have faith that the Titans could, in three straight postseason weeks, do enough to win against, say, the Dolphins, Bills and Chiefs?

Problems are not new

There are a number of factors working against the Titans, all of which took turns resurfacing against the Eagles:

The offensive line was terrible, allowing six sacks of Ryan Tannehill.

How bad was the O-line? Tannehill ended up being Tennessee’s top rusher with 34 yards while running for his life, compared to 30 yards for Henry, who was supposed to carry the load but kept getting tripped up at the line of scrimmage.

When Tannehill did have time to pass, the same problems that have plagued the passing game nearly all season reappeared. The Titans pass catchers – save for rookies Treylon Burks (who suffered a concussion on a TD catch) and Chig Okonkwo – simply don’t do a good enough job of creating the separation necessary to get open.

Hence, on the rare occasions Tannehill does have time to throw the ball, no one was open enough to catch it. That’s because Burks was in concussion protocol and A.J. Brown was across the sideline in an Eagles uniform having an eight-catch, 119-yard, two-touchdown day against his old team.

In other words, the Titans brought an unsharpened knife to the proverbial gunfight.

Yet another crossroads

Coach Mike Vrabel says he told the team it is at a crossroads following Sunday’s loss.

“We can’t point fingers. We have to assume that each and every one of us didn’t do a good enough job, because we didn’t,” Vrabel says. “We have to come to work with greater energy and greater resolve to win a football game against a division opponent.”

Vrabel is referring to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who likely will provide a temporary salve for their wounds when they visit Nissan Stadium Sunday. But beating another cupcake in the division won’t fix the deeper problems this Titans team faces.

“It sucks losing,” Vrabel says. “It sucks getting beat the way we did, but we’ve got to make a decision on how much are we willing to invest in and trust in what the coaches are doing and trust in what other players are doing. I think it’s a critical time for us.”

Fair enough, but with issues on the offensive line, at wide receiver and injuries at key positions on defense, it still might not be enough, no matter how much buy-in there is in the Titans locker room.

The harsh reality is this team’s issues likely won’t be solved until the offseason, where the draft and free agency can be used to address the deficient areas and obtain more playmakers to complement Henry and Tannehill.

The window of opportunity with this core group of players looks as if it is shrinking, not increasing, and some tough, necessary moves must be made in the offseason to reverse that trend and give the Titans another shot to finish the deal next year.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com, a part of Main Street Media.