In New England, Adoree' Jackson has to spark return games

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- While Adoree' Jackson's steadily improved as a cornerback, his return-game work has not lived up to the hype.

apple icon 72x72 precomposedHis punt return average of 8.5 yards was 15th in the NFL during the regular season. We've talked about his tendency to let punts bounce. He fumbled one away in the win at Kansas City.

He did have a big 57-yard kickoff return against the Rams. That's the sort of play the Titans are going to need from him to win the special-teams phase in New England.

My video report:

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How the quiet QB Marcus Mariota is prompting noise from the Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It’s not like Marcus Mariota doesn’t have a pulse.

After the stiff-arm against Jacksonville, we saw him bounce around and glare at Barry Church. After the rebound reception in Kansas City, we saw full-on celebration.

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Still, his default setting is calm. Super calm. Cool. Collected. Unflappable.

So While Mariota has taken over two must-win games -- with runs, throws and even a big block to make room for Derrick Henry -- his team has fed off him more than ever.

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Five insiders share what has to happen in New England for the Titans to have a chance

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – I texted with several personnel men/ pro scouts/analysts and asked them for one, non-obvious thing the Titans have to do in order to have a chance to upset the Patriots at Gillette Stadium Saturday night.MariotaHandKC 1

A couple expounded, a few kept it short and sweet.

I think you will find it all quite interesting.

Here is what they said:

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As the season moved along, it wore on me to hear Mike Mularkey and the Titans say being in games late gave them a chance to win, and that is all you can ask for.

It’s not that I was expecting them to run away with games on any regular basis. It was that the mentality that they couldn’t ask for or expect more of themselves.

It’s OK to say the standard is to seize and maintain control of a game, even if in the end you wind up satisfied you were in it at the end, particularly if you won it in the end.

But now, all that is tossed aside.MariotaIntroKC 1

The Titans are major underdogs Saturday night at the Patriots and with good reason.

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Titans knocked out two must-wins without much from WRs, need more

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In one big swoop, the Titans made a dramatic move.

In 2016 the got away from raw, athletic receivers with a poor sense of time and place, and replaced Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham with lesser athletes with far better receiver skills in Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe.

In 2017, Sharpe went on the shelf with a foot injury and a precise veteran Eric Decker was added, along with fifth-overall draft pick Corey Davis and third-rounder Taywan Taylor.DavisMissKC

Mike Mularkey booted his pal Bob Bratkowski as receivers coach and brought in a Terry Robiskie disciple, Frisman Jackson.

But the move toward enhanced precision feels stalled.

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Three iconic moments from Marcus Mariota in two weeks

mdi construction barKANSAS CITY, Mo. – In two critical wins, Marcus Mariota made three iconic plays.

The helped secure two wins.

And they didn’t include a pass to a teammate.MariotaBlockKC

In the playoff-clinching win over Jacksonville on Dec. 31, Mariota’s massive moment was a stiff-arm of Barry Church on a key 13-yard run that gave the Titans a late first down that helped them kill time and preserve a 15-10 lead.

And Sunday in the wild-card win at Arrowhead Stadium, Mariota’s most memorable moments were a touchdown pass he threw to himself and a block he threw for Derrick Henry.

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mdi construction barKANSAS CITY, Mo. – Mike Mularkey made it clear he was unhappy Titans management had not discussed his status with him as a report from NFL Network Sunday said his job could be at risk if his team lost here.

Not knowing what's up with your job sucks. I’ve been there myself.

Mularkey should be on solid footing now, after leading the Titans to their first playoff win since Jan. 3, 2004.

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He deserves a great deal of credit for changing the culture, for guiding the Titans to back-to-back 9-7 seasons and for this playoff berth and victory.

Still, owner Amy Adams Strunk owes him nothing. He owes her.

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Facing big deficit, Titans found a way to stick with the Derrick Henry plan

mdi construction barKANSAS CITY, Mo. – Down 18 points and in serious trouble, the Titans came out from halftime, recommitted to their plan and executed it really well en route to their first playoff win 5,117 days.

That goes back to Jan. 3, 2004 at Baltimore.HenryArmKC

That plan was Derrick Henry, a week removed from a 1.8-yards-per-carry average against Jacksonville that he later deemed soft. He boosted that a touch in six days, by five yards to 6.8.

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