Kenny Vaccaro: 'I think as a defense, regardless of what your offense is, you should play desperate'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Twice in the last two weeks as they’ve dropped a couple of crucial games, the Titans have pushed to get back in games only to see a defensive drop-off in response.

Spurred by Jonnu Smith’s 57-yard run on Dec. 15 against Houston, the Titans moved to a 5-yard Ryan Tannehill to A.J. Brown touchdown pass that leveled the score at 14-14.

But then the defense gave up a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive during which the Texans had to convert only one third down. Carlos Hyde beat three defenders into the left corner for a 10-yard score and the Texans regained control, never in real danger again.Brees

A week later against New Orleans, Tajae Sharpe caught an off-schedule Tannehill pass and bolted the rest of the way for a 36-yard third-quarter touchdown that closed the Saints lead down to 24-21.

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Scout's Take: Breaking down Titans' two big-play TDs, Saints' five sacks

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The goal Sunday was to compete and win versus a top NFL team. The Titans competed but couldn’t finish. The Saints started out sluggish and uninspired, but the offense found its rhythm and became a tough team to stop.

Two well-designed big scoring plays by the Titans offense started the game perfectly for a team that was without their best offensive player.SharpeCelebrateSaints

The first scoring play for the Titans was a simple three WR look, TE Jonnu Smith was aligned on the line of scrimmage to the right side of the formation. He ran a simple shallow crossing route behind the linebackers. Saints LB A.J. Klein got sucked in on the play-action.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The fourth-quarter hit on Kalif Raymond that created a fumble and set up a Saints' touchdown should have been called an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver, a former VP of officiating in the NFL said.

Mike Pereira, now of FOX, said by text he saw the play live. Looking again at video I shared he said he saw a hit on a defenseless receiver and could have also seen a case for an incomplete pass.RaymondHitSaints

Such a call by Jerome Boger's crew would have resulted in a first-and-10 from the Saints' 47 for the Titans with 4:06 left in the game. [Unlocked]

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For third time in three years, Titans' season comes down to one game

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The unpredictable NFL left multiple scenarios out there for the Titans with two weeks left.

The Jets made things a lot clearer by beating the Steelers.

Now, if Tennessee gets to 9-7 for the fourth consecutive season with a win in Houston in Week 17, they’ll be the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs. If the Titans lose to the Texans and finish 8-8, they’ll be finished.

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“Early wild-card round,” Kenny Vaccaro said.

It’s the third consecutive regular-season finale for Tennessee that’s a win-and-in game.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Derrick Henry will definitely not play for the Titans against the Saints.

The Titans' decision likely results from two factors: the limitations his injured hamstring would cause against New Orleans and an eagerness to have him rested and more ready for Week 17’s game at Houston.HenryIntroPatriots

Now in his fourth season, Henry has previously missed only one game because of injury, Week 9 in 2016 because of a calf strain.

Last week while clearly limited by the injury he still ran 21 times for 86 yards in the home loss to the Texans. [Unlocked]

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Unlocked preview. Become a member or get a membership as a gift today for 25 percent off by heading here.

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A true evaluation of Ryan Tannehill as a franchise quarterback begins this week.

With an ailing Derrick Henry, the offense will run through the quarterback and the other offensive weapons. WRs A.J. Brown, Corey Davis and TE Jonnu Smith will need to have big games to keep up with the Saints' scoring.

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Tannehill has played well since taking over as the starter, but he has had the benefit of an outstanding run game and the play-action that is a result of the success of running the ball.

The Saints' defense has a playmaker at each level.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Greetings as we prepare for Week 16.

I'm here to hit you with a podcast, a Periscope and a mailbag all at once. 

(We got a little jumbled on some of the playoff-scenario talk. You can easily sort it out right here. And the Colts remain a factor.)

All of this is open to all this week, as is this brilliant idea: A membership to PaulKuharsky.com as a gift for the Titans' fan in your life. It's currently 25 percent off for a full year. A steal for everything I write, private Periscope/Facebook Live broadcasts, scouting previews and reviews from Blake Beddingfield, podcasts, a spot in our private Facebook community and a five percent discount at Tennessee Tickets.

Head here to sign up, I can change an email address and/or a member name at any time.

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Onto mail.

PK: If they go 10-6, even if without the playoffs, it’s a step forward. It’s not the one they were looking for, but it’s a step forward for sure. I think while fans could be upset over the failure to get into the post-season and can reasonably say the team did not advance from good-to-great as it pledged throughout the offseason there was still progress in a season of transition at quarterback.

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Jurrell Casey: Titans' defensive front needs to bring the heat, take some pressure off secondary

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans’ secondary was a strength early this season, and it held up well enough to mask some deficiencies in pass pressure.

Now, with a banged-up group of cornerbacks preparing to face a quarterback who rarely gets sacked, Jurrell Casey says it’s time for the defensive front to payback the backfield.CaseyFlagPatriots

"They definitely need us right now,” Casey said. “They’re beat up, they’re banged up. They’ve been doing great for us all season long

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