NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The cultural shift the Titans have managed over the last few years has included shedding some bozos, adding some eager youth and building some strong generational bridges in the locker room.

Matt Cassel, the 35-year old father of four, and Adoree’ Jackson, the 22-year old precocious rookie probably don’t have a great deal in common. But the Titans have forged an atmosphere where working together for the greater good of the team has become something all kind of different guys now share in.

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Two veterans who’ve been to the Pro Bowl spoke this week about how a younger team has created a far better interpersonal dynamic at the office.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One of the big things people want to know about the Mike Mularkey-Terry Robiskie offense run by Marcus Mariota is just how much the quarterback can change out of plays at the line, and when he gets to call the plays himself.

Robiskie has talked about how no-huddle is limiting for the Titans.MariotaShotgunKC 1

But it sure worked well during the playoff win at Arrowhead Stadium when the Titans went to it, probably 40 to 50 percent of the time.

And when they are in it, Mariota is calling the plays.

To learn more about when Mariota has that freedom and when he has the freedom to check out of plays, I went to a key team resource on such matters: the backup quarterback.

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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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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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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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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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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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