NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)The Tennessee Titans face their first Thursday night game this season at the worst moment possible.
Yes, the Titans (6-3) are coming off a 17-10 win over Denver, their sixth in seven games. They also have 13 players on injured reserve and had to scratch five defensive starters before kickoff.
Then Tennessee lost three more to injuries during the game.
And oh yeah, the Titans kicker is hurting now too before a trip to Green Bay (4-6).
It’s time for some Jedi mind tricks – beyond the usual NFL ploy of pretending Monday really is Wednesday and not the day usually spent recovering from playing a game 24 hours earlier.
”We have to tell ourselves that, we have to tell our bodies that, we have to tell our minds that,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. ”But we also have to try to do the best that we can to win the mental performance and the physical recovery battle here the next couple of days. Everybody deals with it.”
The Titans (6-3) have battled through plenty of injuries to climb back atop the AFC South after an 0-2 start. Patching together a lineup for the next game is nothing new for a franchise that set an NFL record using 91 different players last season while earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
They also got quarterback Ryan Tannehill back from a sprained right ankle that cost him two straight starts.
”No doubt it is a challenge,” Tannehill said. ”It is a challenge each and every Thursday night game that comes around. We have to get past this one quickly.”
The defense. Somehow, someway the Titans plug and play and don’t skip a beat even when they sat 2021 Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons (left ankle), safety Amani Hooker (left shoulder), outside linebacker Bud Dupree (hip) and cornerback Kristian Fulton (hamstring) with linebacker Zach Cunningham put on IR.
They’re tied for fourth in the NFL with 29 sacks, lead the league in allowing the fewest third down conversions and rank eighth for fewest points allowed.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The offense. Yes, Tannehill had his third-best passing performance this season with 255 yards, and they scored a rare touchdown in the third quarter. But Tennessee has scored two fewer points (166) than the defense has allowed (168).
The Titans rank last in averaging 281.7 yards per game.
Derrick Henry, second in the NFL with 923 yards entering Monday, remains their biggest weapon. He’s also the biggest focal point for opposing defenses to stop first and foremost. That’s why his five-game streak of 100-yard rushing performances was snapped with 53 yards against Denver, his second-worst performance this season.
WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. The guy who went undrafted out of Indiana in 2020 is coming off a career-best performance with 119 yards receiving and two touchdowns, including a 63-yarder off a flea-flicker play. That tripled the number of TD catches by Tennessee receivers, which had been one by Robert Woods.
CB Caleb Farley. The 2021 first-round pick dropped from a potential top 10 selection to Tennessee at No. 22 because of a second surgery on his back weeks before the draft. He left the Denver game with a back injury. But he hadn’t played a defensive snap in the past four games, contributing only on special teams.
19 – That’s the number of Titans on the final injury report for last week, though four had days off just to rest up. That list will be longer this week after CBs Elijah Molden (groin), Lonnie Johnson (hamstring) and Farley (back) didn’t return from their injuries. ILB David Long stayed in the game despite a stinger that sent him to the ground a couple of times.
7 and 6: The Titans have intercepted at least one pass in seven straight games. They also have at least three sacks in six straight games.
Heal up enough to go to Green Bay and find a way to end a couple of skids. The Titans are 0-2 in prime-time games this season and have lost their past two at Lambeau Field by a combined score of 95-21. Then the Titans can get a long weekend off before hosting Cincinnati on Nov. 27.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker
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