At head of the line, Vic Beasley and Johnathan Joseph holding Titans back

CINCINNATI – Mirror time, everyone.

Get up there, that’s right, nice and close. Make sure your pads are off, and get skinny. You’ve got to leave room for everyone who dons two-tone blue.TitansFlagCin

I see Johnathan Joseph, I know he’s standup from when I covered him some in Houston and based on his rep so I appreciate that.

Someone go find Vic Beasley. COVID-19 arrangements have made it so I don’t know him at all, we’ve never met, but the reputation that proceeded him to Tennessee said he liked to go walk around the parking lot when the team hung out in the locker room, and I want to be sure he’s around.

Mike Vrabel’s not going to hide, and neither is Job Robinson so that’s good.

Following a horrific 31-20 loss at Paul Brown Stadium to the not-in-your-class Bengals, the Titans are on a two-game losing streak and it’s become clear the offense can’t do all the work because it’s not so good that it can just roll when it hears a whistle.

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Scout's take: How Titans will match up vs. Bengals patchwork OL, Joe Burrow

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Bengals’ defense is 28th versus the run and 25th versus the pass. The statistics match the poor Bengals’ defensive personnel.

Cincinnati traded longtime defensive end and pass rusher Carlos Dunlap this week to the Seattle Seahawks.HenryStiffArmCIN

Veteran defensive tackle Geno Atkins is not the same player he once was. He relied on quickness, balance and body control with outstanding hand use, and was a disrupter and productive run-down player and pass rusher. But he is now slower off the snap and lacks the size and strength to make up for his dip in quickness.

With the decline of Atkins and trade of Dunlap, the Bengals defense lacks a front-line NFL player. That means the Bengals have average NFL starters or backup level players on their defense.

Matchups against the Bengals' defense

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – During Mike Vrabel’s 38 regular-season games as Titans' coach, he’s grown as a guy who controls and manages a game.

In last Sunday’s loss, I was surprised when he burned a timeout with 10:33 on the clock in the third quarter with the Steelers facing a third-and-7 at the Titans’ 12-yard line.

The Titans had only 10 men on the field before stopping the game.

“There was an injury situation,” Vrabel said. “Failure on my part to properly communicate a substitution within the drive. We ran into a substitution issue because of an injury. I have to be better.”

It was an unusual moment, as it's far more frequent in a close game that Vrabel has timeouts at his disposal that he winds up not needing than that he regrets having used one too soon.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans’ defensive woes are plentiful, but the headliner is clear: a third-down defense that is alarmingly bad.

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Through six games the Titans are allowing opponents to convert at a 47.7 percent rate, worst in the NFL. On third-and-7 or more it’s 53.8 percent and on third-and-11 or more it’s also 58.8 percent. (Thanks to Johnathan Hutton for those precise breakdowns.)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Derrick Henry mostly runs over people, then can outrun them. His stiff arms have become something fans look forward to and opponents get shamed by. They are a marquee element of his power game.

So it came as a surprise in Week 3 when Henry went up and over the Vikings defense to convert a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter to help set up a field goal, and when he later scored his second touchdown of the game from the 1-yard line by again going vertical, again not through but above the defense.HenryAir

Photo: CBS

“Leading up to Minnesota, I hadn’t gotten in the end zone,” said Henry, who now has seven touchdowns. “We were right there and I said, ‘I’ve got to fly in here like Superman.’”

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans will be without second-round pick Kristian Fulton for a few weeks after he suffered a knee injury during Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Adoree’ Jackson who has yet to play this year after suffering a knee injury of his own in the practice week leading up to the season opener could be ready to return Sunday in Cincinnati.

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Photo George Walker, Tennessean via pool.

But even with Jackson back the Titans will be incomplete at cornerback without Fulton.

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Scout's take: Factors in the Titans' terrible third-down defense

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The game was a tale of two halves of football. 

The Steelers dominated the first half by controlling the clock with a short passing game and occasional run but most importantly converting third downs with ease.

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The Steelers took the Titans game plan and used it against them. Time of possession: 36:37 for the Steelers to 23:23 for Tennessee.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Huge problem areas went unfixed and the opponent got better.

Mix those together and the very good, very resilient Titans were still doomed to their first loss of the season, a 27-24 defeat only sealed when Stephen Gostkowski’s 45-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right with 19 seconds remaining.

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Stephen Gostkowski on a kick that could have tied the game with 19 seconds left: Alison McNabb, Tennessee Titans.

The Titans have talked week after week about fixing their third-down defense. But they let the undefeated Steelers convert 13-of-18 attempts including a third-and-11, a third-and-14, a third-and-12 and two third-and-7s.

"It hasn't gotten any better," Mike Vrabel said of third-down D that has surrendered at a .610 clip. "Didn't improve."

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