Titans' playoff path looks near impossible, but they are saying what they have to at 4-5

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Eight teams in the AFC have fewer losses than the Titans.

Tennessee is one of three AFC teams with five. They’ve lost to one of the other two, Jacksonville, and beat the other, the LA Chargers.

The Titans have a rematch with the Jaguars, but for now, in the conference, they are ahead of only the Chargers, Denver (who they lost to), Cleveland (who they beat), the New York Jets, and Cincinnati.

The Titans are technically 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot (though they've lost to the Colts who hold the final spot), but they have four teams to leap.

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Titans have already matched most field-goal misses of Nashville era

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For all the iterations of Titans’ badness and mediocrity, their specialists have typically been quite good.

Ryan Succop’s offseason knee issues put them in a bind this season and set them on a path that had changed that.SuccopCAR

They nonchalantly acted with no concern about kicker in the preseason. When Succop told them he didn’t have his strength back and couldn’t at the start of the season, they picked Cairo Santos over Cody Parkey, until he bombed out.

Against the Colts in a 19-17 loss, Santos missed a 45-yard attempt wide left.

Against the Bills in a 14-7 loss, he missed a 50-yarder wide left, a 36-yarder wide right, had a 33-yarder blocked and missed a 53-yarder wide left by a mile.

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Scout's Take: Decline in Titans' player production is alarming

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans offense couldn’t get going in the first half because of penalties by the offensive line or pressure given up forcing quick throws.

The game plan that was put in to use RB Dion Lewis looks good on paper but not in actual execution because of Lewis' inability to be a threat as a runner or receiver anymore.TitansCeiling3

The Titans used Lewis early in the game to chip against rookie OLB Brian Burns.

Lewis played a lot in the first half and had some successful runs and plays but ended a positive drive with a fumble.

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CHARLOTTE – The Titans are no first-half team.

In their five losses, the Titans’ first-half averages: 26.8 plays, 99.8 yards, 36 rushing yards, 63.8 passing yards, 13.3 percent on third down and 1.4 points. They’ve been held scoreless in four of the five and scored a first-half TD against the Colts.IMG 1800

Sunday at Bank of America Stadium they had a four-play drive end with a missed field goal, a three-play drive end with a punt, a three-play drive end with a fumble, a two-play drive end with a pick, a three-play drive end with a punt and an eight-play drive end with a missed field goal.

“Starting slow, those penalties killed us,” Derrick Henry said. “Self-inflicted wounds, we can’t start off like that against a team like this. We just gave them all the momentum with all of those penalties.

“We’ve got to start faster, be better as a whole, just be focused.”

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Mike Vrabel should take the defibrillators to this team. Stat.

CHARLOTTE – Mike Vrabel stood at the podium speaking in the future tense, about the things the Titans need to work to fix.

But here the Titans were at 4-5 after a 30-20 loss to the Panthers, the first to an NFC opponent under Vrabel’s guidance, in dire need of a look back.Panther

This team just sleepwalked through another first half offensively, turned the ball over three times, committed 11 penalties for 99 yards, missed three field goals and gave its feature running back two touches in the first half.

I want to know about the things Vrabel has spoken about needing to fix after previous losses that showed up, again, during this game.

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Scout's Take: Titans' best hopes for dealing with Christian McCaffrey and Luke Kuechly

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Panthers have won four of their last five games since they inserted backup QB Kyle Allen for Pro-Bowl QB Cam Newton.

Allen lacks the big-play ability of Newton, but he has provided better ball security and started to utilize the best player on the offense in RB Christian McCaffrey.

Allen played four of his five games on the road and will finally be back at home this week against the Titans.EvansBucs

The young quarterback did not throw an interception until his fifth game, when he had three in San Francisco. He also has three fumbles in those five games.

Allen has been sacked 17 times in five games this season and he ranks 13th in the NFL in most sacks.

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Patience is great, but Titans seem too accepting of negative plays from run game

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Derrick Henry keeps getting hit quickly.

While the run-reliant Titans can still find big plays from their big back they’ve got to do better to minimize the frequency with which he’s getting contacted with such immediacy.

He’s averaged just a yard before contact per carry, the lowest of 33 qualified NFL RBs. The NFL average is double that. Yards Before Contact per Carry Overall this season

"It has to be better, obviously, because you break them, when you can break them, you get him to the second level,” Mike Vrabel said.

“We’ve got to cover guys up and make good reads. Get the play started, that’s critical. When runners, especially Derrick, tries to get into his fourth or fifth step, it’s a little different than a guy with a different skillset.

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Titans need to solve up and down play from wide receivers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A.J. Brown has been targeted 4.2 times per game -- the second-lowest average of 69 qualified NFL receivers. Corey Davis has averaged 40.8 receiving yards per game -- the second-lowest of 50 qualified NFL receivers.

But things are getting better since Ryan Tannehill took over, even if the Chargers win affected things a lot more heavily than the victory over the Buccaneers.

With the Titans at 4-4, Tannehill has started a quarter of their games.AJBrownChargers

In that quarter, Brown has seen 33 percent of his targets and Davis 33 percent.

In that quarter, Brown has made 36 percent of his catches and Davis 33 percent.

It’s still, unfortunately, very much a developing passing offense, but as those numbers are higher than the 25 percent Tannehill has been starting, they are good.

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