Titans hoping being home for stretch run helps salvage season

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The best thing the Tennessee Titans have going for them right now might be their schedule.

They finally get to stay home for five of the seven games remaining where the Titans have been a completely different team, even if it's still not enough to salvage this season.

The Titans (3-7) have lost three straight, five of their past six and set a Tennessee-era mark for consecutive road losses at nine. They haven't won away from Nashville in more than a year and lost their sixth straight road game this season, 34-14 in Jacksonville.

Mike Vrabel, the AP NFL Coach of the Year for the 2021 season, said Monday he wishes they were winning.

"I’m not going to compromise the things that I believe that are going to help us win and about the details and about the little things and not letting those slide and doing my best to hold everybody accountable, including myself, as we go through this,” Vrabel said.

Vrabel had a winning record each of his first four seasons before a seven-game skid left the Titans at 7-10 for 2022.

Now the Titans are looking at a second straight losing season, which this franchise hasn't had since 2014 and 2015.

A 3-20 record cost Ken Whisenhunt his job seven games into 2015.

Vrabel's cushion comes from this being his first season with general manager Ran Carthon, hired in January to replace Jon Robinson whose draft misses and free agent mistakes still are being felt.

The best example? Robinson's last three first-round draft picks have started 13 combined games, and he traded his 2020 pick away after an ugly rookie season.

Vrabel, who won three Super Bowl rings playing linebacker over 14 seasons, said he has the luxury of knowing what players are being asked to do. Vrabel and his coaches will keep working to improve execution of details and fundamentals and demand the Titans play with great effort.

"I know that’s what works," Vrabel said.

WHAT’S WORKING

Trick plays by the offense that doubled the number of touchdowns the Titans have scored away from Nashville. The first came with rookie quarterback Will Levis lined up wide. Two-time NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry took the snap in the wildcat, handed to Tyjae Spears, who gave it to Levis.

The rookie found DeAndre Hopkins for a 43-yard TD pass that was Tennessee's first on the road this season. Levis followed that up with a 2-yard TD pass to two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The defense. A unit that had been the NFL's 10th-stingiest to score against gave up the first 27 points.

That matched the most Tennessee had given up in any single game this season en route to a season worst in points.

STOCK UP

Levis. The rookie is 1-3 since taking over as the starter. He's completing only 58.9% of his passes. But the 33rd pick overall out of Kentucky has an 89.4 passer rating with six TD passes and only two interceptions playing behind a patchwork offensive line on a unit that hasn't had one of its starting wide receivers half the season because of injuries.

STOCK DOWN

CB Kristian Fulton and C Aaron Brewer. Fulton split time with Tre Avery in what Vrabel called a “coach's decision.” Levis couldn't recover Brewer's bad snap on the Titans' second drive in Jaguars' territory in a then-scoreless game.

INJURIES

RT Chris Hubbard (elbow) likely will miss some time. S Terrell Edmunds is in the concussion protocol along with WR Treylon Burks, who missed a second straight game and LT Andre Dillard. Starting CB Sean Murphy-Bunting returned to practice last week recovering from surgery for an injured right thumb that has kept him out of much of the past three games.

KEY NUMBER

3-0: The Titans are perfect at home, scoring at least 27 points in each game. That's compared to the 12.2 points per game averaged away from Nashville, including a “home” loss to Baltimore in London in October.

NEXT STEPS

Try to get on a bit of a roll with a two-game homestand starting Sunday against Carolina (1-9) — one of the three NFL teams without a road win. The Titans then host Indianapolis (5-5) — the last team on the schedule currently without a winning record.

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