Scouting preview: How the Titans can make Patrick Mahomes less effective

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Chiefs are a confusing team this season.

They have two of the most dynamic offensive players in the NFL in Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill.Titans vs. Chiefs

In the past three years, Mahomes has been electric because of his ability to adlib and make plays off-script.

The problem is the NFL defenses have spent the past few years trying to figure him out and at least come up with a plan to slow down the talented QB.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When the Titans’ defense withstands the early, scripted element an opponent brings into a game, Shane Bowen considers it a mini-victory.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “Anytime you’re kind of going into a game, you’re never really knowing what you’re going to get. Certain teams do a little bit more early on than other teams. But (we’re) just trying to get into the flow of the game, make sure we can handle all their punches early as best we can.”

Todd Downing

© George Walker IV /

When the Titans held the Bills to a field goal after some mistakes and missed tackles, Bowen said it added a little bit of confidence, “Give you a little jolt of life like ‘Hey, we’ll be OK, we’ll regroup, we’ll be OK.”

On the other side of the ball, the Titans have regularly helped provide that jolt to the defenses they’ve faced.

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NASHVILLE, TENN. – Roughly three months after the Titans lost the 2019 AFC Championship Game to the Chiefs, Logan Ryan was a floating free agent and Mike Vrabel was redefining what the Titans needed out of the nickel position.

He said a slot corner still has to be able to cover a speedy tight end, play man and zone and blitz.

“And more so now to be able to match up on some vertical routes inside,” he said. “I think for so long, in the slot there was this horizontal thought -- that guys had to work defenses horizontally.

Elijah Molden

Pool photo/ Tennessee Titans 

“And now we’re seeing a lot more vertical routes that are coming out of the slot so I think that is something that is always a challenge when you are looking for players that do all those things and do them very well.”

Tyreek Hill struck fear into the Titans in that game, and they did reasonably good work against him, holding him to five catches for 67 yards. But his two touchdowns were a big part of the Chiefs 35-24 win.

Sunday the NFL’s top slot receiver will be a giant storyline against cornerback-depleted Tennessee at Nissan Stadium.

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Scouting review: How Titans' coordinators keyed win over Bills

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Bills came to town hailed as the AFC’s best team.

They were outcoached and outplayed and didn’t look like a Super Bowl team.

The Titans don’t either, but they didn’t have that hype at kickoff.

A.J. Brown

Pool photo/ Donald Page, Tennesse Titans

Fans who don’t like Titans' coordinators Shane Bowen and Todd Downing should quit listening to NFL pundits and watch what is going on.

Against a top-rated offense and defense and the Titans' players leaving the game to injuries, the defense made plays when it counted, and the offense let their two best players, Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, take over the game.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans kind of have this trick down.

They disappoint their diehards with something like a road loss to the miserable Jets and then, with slack in the rope, they make them grab back on, pull tight and take them on a tense and fun ride, coming out with something like Monday night’s terrific 34-31 win over Buffalo.

Amani Hooker

Pool photo/ Donald Page, Tennessee Titans

When it’s over it feels like a recommitment ceremony.

The Bills came to Nissan Stadium playing like the Titans aspire to, tops in the NFL in both scoring offense and defense and widely regarded as the AFC’s best team.

They left with a loss to an injury-depleted team that found a passing game to balance out Derrick Henry, that played well in the red-zone on both sides of the ball and finished things off with a glorious goal-line stop.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans' upset win over the Buffalo Bills Monday night came with bad injury news as both cornerback Caleb Farley and receiver Cam Batson suffered torn ACLs and are finished for the season.

The loss of Farley, who the team selected with the 22nd overall pick in the April draft, is particularly tough.

Kristian Fulton went on IR before the Bills game and will miss at least the next two games so the Titans are now extremely thin at cornerback.

Caleb Farley

© Andrew Nelles / / USA TODAY NETWORK

Farley came into the NFL after opting out of his final year at Virginia Tech and had two surgeries on his back to deal with a herniated disc. He joined the Titans training camp workouts a week after the team started and he appeared in the team's final two preseason games. [Unlocked]

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Vrabel was getting ready to coach just his second NFL game and his roster was a mess.

His quarterback was out and so was Delanie Walker and he was down to his fourth and fifth tackles.

The Titans were installing Wildcat plays as late as Friday and Saturday and Vrabel came up with the formula to win: Forty. Seventeen. Two.

Mike Vrabel

To beat the Texans on Sept. 16, 2018, he ultimately told the Titans, they needed to run the ball 40 times, hold them to 17 points or fewer and force two turnovers.

They needed less than he anticipated. They won, 20-17 with 34 rush attempts and one takeaway.

Tonight’s game against the Bills on Monday Night Football isn’t nearly as complicated. But it feels a bit like that game, a matchup later that season against the Patriots, the playoff win in the 2019 season at Baltimore and last year’s win over the Bills after a 16-day, practice-and-a-half Covid-19 layoff.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans cornerback Kristian Fulton's hamstring injury will keep him out of Monday night football against the Buffalo Bills.

Kristian Fulton

Pool photo/ George Walker, The Tennessean

First-round draft pick Caleb Farley, who missed a day of practice sick, is likely to get his first NFL start in Fulton's place. He's played just 32 snaps in two games as a shoulder injury has limited him early in his first season.

Breon Borders could also be used as an alternative. [Unlocked]

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