Tennessee Titans running out of time to salvage season because of road woes

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans are running out of time to salvage this season.

The Titans (3-6) have lost two straight and four of five after a 20-6 loss in Tampa Bay. They haven't won on the road since Nov. 17, 2022, making Tennessee the AFC's lone winless team away from home at 0-5. Arizona is the NFL's only other team still looking for a road win.

They wrap up a three-game road swing Sunday by visiting Jacksonville with the Jaguars (6-3) sitting atop the AFC South poised to repeat as divisional champs.

That's where the Titans' bid for a third straight division title came to an end in the 2022 regular-season finale.

“We’re here to fix problems, and none of us have been good enough at any position, at any level," coach Mike Vrabel said Monday.

"So that’s our job. That’s what I’m going to do, and I know that’s what our team’s going to do. So we’ll give ourselves a chance. We’ll get a plan together and get back to work.”

One thing that has to be fixed quickly is protecting rookie Will Levis better. Veteran Ryan Tannehill was sacked 19 times in six starts, and the No. 33 pick overall out of Kentucky has been sacked 10 times in three starts, going 1-2. That included four sacks in the loss to Tampa Bay with 21 pressures allowed.

Vrabel said they had too many drops in the loss and left “too much meat on the bone.” Levis was 19 of 39 for 199 yards with one interception.

WHAT’S WORKING

The defense ranks 10th in the NFL, giving up just 20 points a game. The Titans also are the league's second-best unit backed up inside their 20, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on only 34.2% of trips.

The Titans also have the fewest interceptions in the league, getting their third of the season against Tampa Bay. Roger McCreary, a second-round pick in his second season, got his first interception this season against the Bucs.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The revamped offensive line is worse despite all the offseason moves with the Titans 29th in the NFL in giving up 33 sacks. The exception is Peter Skoronski, the 11th overall pick, with the Titans insisting on keeping him at left guard.

Veteran right guard Daniel Brunskill missed the Bucs' loss with an injured ankle. Andre Dillard, another free agent signee, got his left tackle job back briefly after Nicholas Petit-Frere went on injured reserve with an injured shoulder. Then Dillard was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

That forced the Titans to move Dillon Radunz, a second-round pick in 2021, from right guard to left tackle. Andrew Rupcich, who played at NAIA Culver-Stockton, made his NFL debut at right guard as the 20th undrafted free agent on the current roster.

STOCK UP

WR Kyle Philips. The second-year receiver, who was a fifth-round pick, led the Titans with 61 yards receiving on three catches.

STOCK DOWN

Radunz. He played 59 snaps against the Bucs, most at left tackle. He was flagged for a false start on consecutive plays that turned a second-and-2 into a three-and-out.

Vrabel said Monday rookie Jaelyn Duncan, a sixth-round pick out of Maryland, could be an option at left tackle. Duncan already is among 10 rookies to play this season.

INJURIES

Dillard is in the concussion protocol. The Titans also lost LB Chance Campbell, signed from the practice squad Saturday, who was hurt during pregame warmups. Starting CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (thumb) has missed much of the past two games with an injured thumb.

They really need WR Treylon Burks to clear the concussion protocol soon after he was briefly knocked out late in the Nov. 2 loss at Pittsburgh.

KEY NUMBER

Five — The number of games remaining in the AFC South and the home games the Titans have left this season. They're undefeated in Nashville and can't get home soon enough.

NEXT STEPS

Find a way to score more than 16 points away from home, which they haven't managed yet this season. And start climbing up from the bottom of the AFC with only New England currently below Tennessee. Right now, a possible top-five selection next April seems more realistic than competing in the AFC South.

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