Better tackling at the core of Titans' defensive resurgence

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After the Week 4 monster loss at Houston, the Titans ranked 29th overall in defense.

It’s been a steady climb to respectability since then, and after their 20-16 win at Indianapolis in Week 12, they stand 11th.

A big part of the 18-spot rise has been far sounder tackling.

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“Some guys think it’s the hit more than the tackle, they think guys are going to go down just because you hit them, or you hit them low,” Mularkey said. “You’ve got to wrap up. We have been better, yes.”

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There is a limit to play-action and option plays for Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans are good on play-action and they are good when Marcus Mariota has a run-pass option, most of which come out of option plays.

So the temptation is to demand more of both.

And the Titans should do more.MularkeyStanceIND

But there is a line after which they’d probably get diminishing returns.

We have a number, we’re pretty good about sticking to it,” Mike Mularkey said. “It’s not as easy as you think. We want to be good at what we have. The more you do, the less you can practice it, the less effective you can be…

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‘Good push off:’ How the Titans are preparing for DeAndre Hopkins

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a 56-14 embarrassment in Houston on Oct. 1, DeAndre Hopkins pushed the Titans around en route to 10 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.

He’s easily the most dangerous guy on the version of the Texans that will be at Nissan Stadium Sunday.

“We’re trying to simulate it as much as possible, the physical part of it, and get as much of a good look in practice as we can,” Mike Mularkey said. “Plus we’ve played him, these guys know him well enough. It’s a physical matchup.JacksonPIT

“One thing he does… I think they’ve got the most pass interference calls against them in the league, and they’ve got the second-most holding calls in the league against the opponents against him. It’s a tough challenge covering him.”

A guy you may never have heard of is a big part of getting the Titans ready for Hopkins.

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How Marcus Mariota adjusted to Corey Davis' sloppy routes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Marcus Mariota pledged to get the bottom of his recent spurt of interceptions and to get better.

Wednesday, after the Titans installed the first phase of their game plan for Sunday’s home game against the Texans, he spoke a bit about what he’s been doing wrong.

Mike Mularkey said the Titans aren’t finding a specific issue with the quarterback.

“I don’t think there is anything mechanical,” he said. “I think there are things we can do better route-running wise. And then he’s thrown some poor throws, there is no doubt, he knows that. That one (in Indianapolis) to Harry Douglas, was a poor throw.

“I don’t know if it was mechanics. It’s going to happen.”Mariota3IND

As for the idea of the quarterback falling into bad habits, Mularkey wasn’t buying my premise.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – During my football-watching lifetime, the home team’s game has been a ratings-grabbing given.

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But as the NFL circa 2017 deals with a popularity decline, I’m amazed there has been no real examination of the broadcasts.

Sure, a good share of people are going to watch it no matter what. But that number isn’t as big as it used to be. The NFL and its broadcast partners should be examining and considering everything.

Generally, a Titans game is the highest-rated broadcast in Nashville each week. And that makes CBS, and Fox which occasionally has a game, think everything is rosy, so they alter nothing.

Which is incredibly short-sighted.

The broadcasts of your lower-ranking crews absolutely need to be revamped.

The issue is two-fold.

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Amid interception issues, Marcus Mariota has stopped fumbling

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An offseason of rehabilitation from a serious injury rather than polishing mechanics is clearly one factor that’s contributed to a down season for Marcus Mariota.MariotaRollIND

His 12 interceptions are already the most he’s thrown in a season, after 10 in 12 games as a rookie and nine in 15 games in 2016.

The odd thing is that, even without that offseason of work, he’s totally taken care of one major point of emphasis.

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Despite new weapons, Delanie Walker remains Titans' main man

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Delanie Walker’s first touchdown of the season prompted him to perform CPR on the football.

And the Titans offense did return to life after that in Indianapolis.

“Whatever it was worked,” Mike Mularkey said.

A team that has not really found a start-to-finish offensive effort during a 7-4 season needs for it to become a symbol for an offensive resuscitation that extends well beyond Lucas Oil Stadium.DelanieCatchIND

With Rishard Matthews (hamstring) out, Walker was a singular force for the Titans passing game.

The lack of a touchdown before the Colts game and the constant double teams working to slow him swayed me from thinking he was playing at the same high level. But Sunday's game told me I was definitely wrong.

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