Scouting review: Titans got it done, but not without some trouble signs

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans won the AFC South and most importantly a first-round bye, 28-25 in Houston.

The first half went the Titans’ way.

The Titans' defensive front shut down the run game and kept the Texans’ offense off the field.

Julio Jones

© Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans brought extra defenders and pressure on Houston when it was in third-and-long because the Texans had no downfield threats. Tennessee was able to stop the run with seven defenders and covered up the passes easily in the first half.

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VrabelCoachOfTheYearHOUSTON -- The Titans seemed to relax for about 20 minutes in the second half, which made their No. 1-seed clinching win a bit of a sweat.

But they got it done, 28-25 in the end.

Ryan Tannehill was great, which is a nice thing for them to carry into the playoffs, where they are an automatic qualifier for the Elite Eight.

One home win and they host the AFC Championship Game, a second and they go to the Super Bowl. 

We had a great discussion about the 12th win of their season and a whole bunch of things connected to it.

Check it out through the private Facebook page.

Or you can head below.

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'A little bit of space, a little bit of air' was what the Titans needed to secure the No. 1 seed

HOUSTON – The highlight reel will swell with other plays.

Touchdowns and sacks and takeaways did a lot to tell the story of the 12-5 regular season that earned the Tennessee Titans the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed and slid them directly into the divisional round of the postseason.

But that position was in serious peril in the fourth quarter of their regular-season finale, on a third-and-5 from their own 30-yard line with 10 minutes and 20 seconds left at NRG Stadium.

Ryan Tannerhill in trouble

© George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

A big lead had shrunk to just 3 points. The host Texans, looking to spoil things, had seized the momentum. And defensive lineman Jacob Martin bounced off Anthony Firkser and zipped inside of Taylor Lewan.

What happened from there did wonders to propel the Titans to a 28-25 win, preserve their hold on the conferences’ top spot and slingshot them into the playoffs with major momentum.

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Scouting preview: How the Titans can hold Brandin Cooks down

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Texans beat the Titans in Week 11.

The Titans have to make sure they are not swept by the division rival.

They have the bye to play for and the Texans are one of the NFL’s worst teams.

This should not be a roadblock for a team with higher aspirations. 

Kristian Fulton

Courtesy Tennessee Titans

This time around there will be a change at quarterback where veteran Tyrod Taylor has given way to rookie Davis Mills.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The standings like the Titans.

The metrics don’t.

Read Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders or the analytics minds at The Athletic, and the Titans can sound like a Super Bowl long-shot, not a team on the verge of a No. 1 seed who will only have to win two home games to earn the spot in the AFC locker room at Sofi Stadium on Feb. 13.

Tennessee hasn’t played consistently excellent football. And I am not anti-analytics.

AFC South Champs

I always try to understand what the metrics are telling us, though I sometimes get overwhelmed in a world where expected points added seem to mean more than actual points scored.

I admit confusion here. Sixteen of the 17 games have been played. The Titans have overcome half of them without their best player, beaten several of the others best teams in the AFC – the Chiefs, the Bills and the Colts twice as well as the Rams who are currently No. 2 in the NFC and the 49ers, who are still contending for an NFC spot.

Why then this?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Derrick Henry has been officially designated to return to practice and was on the field with the Titans on Wednesday.

Technically, the Titans now have three weeks before they must move Henry to the active roster or put him back on IR. Derrick Henry fans

The activation doesn’t mean he will jump right into full practices with the Titans as they prepare for Sunday’s game in Houston. The Titans always have a plan for a guy to ramp up for a return.

But the envelope of what he can do expands. There are now no limits. Previously he was only allowed to work on his own, doing conditioning or drills under the watch of trainers.

The question for this week is whether the team will activate him and use him at all against the Texans. [Unlocked]

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Bud DupreeNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville Metro Police consulted with the District Attorney's office and charged Bud Dupree with misdemeanor assault of Greg Butler, 20, in an incident at a Walgreens not far from the Titans headquarters on Sunday night.

Dupree and his attorney met with the district attorney's office Monday morning and his attorney met with detective's Monday afternoon, per a Metro Nashville Police news release. [Unlocked]

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The busts tend to get our notice because they leave holes, and filling the holes can become painstaking in-season work.

So the failure, say, to realize Vic Beasley and Josh Reynolds didn’t love ball in the way the Titans want their players to love ball was bad on Jon Robinson, the guy with the final say on personnel with the team.

Ben Jones

Pool photo/ Mark Humphrey, AP

But as the Titans approach the playoffs and potentially the No. 1 seed in the AFC, Denico Autry and Bud Dupree are major influences on a defense that’s had a major turnaround since last season.

Autry is a home-run signing, at three years, $21.5 million with $9 million guaranteed. Dupree’s best is still ahead of him, but he too looks very good as the big-ticket item from the 2021 shopping list.

Let’s see where they fit in on the list of Robinson’s best free-agent signings.

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