The Tennessee Titans are down to crunch time regarding their playoff hopes with two weeks to go in the season. The good news is they currently hold a wild-card spot at 8-6 and close the year with two home games. The bad news is they have two playoff-bound teams coming to Nashville, beginning Christmas Eve with the Los Angeles Rams and followed by the Jacksonville Jaguars on New Year’s Eve. Here are the five keys for the Titans vs. the Rams.
1. Slow down Todd Gurley. No one has really stopped Gurley much this season as he has 1,187 yards rushing and 54 receptions on the year. But the Titans No. 3-ranked run defense will have to live up to its billing on Sunday to keep the Rams’ primary weapon in check.
2. Patch the secondary together. The Titans are coming off a terrible performance pass defense-wise against the 49ers and now face the high-flying Rams passing attack without LeShaun Sims and perhaps without Logan Ryan. Whatever scheming Dick LeBeau can do to help out replacements like Brice McCain and Tye Smith will be needed against LA’s potent attack.
3. Throw a monkeywrench into the Rams plans. Rams coach Sean McVay has been doing a lot of the reading of the defense from the sideline, then relaying the play call to Jared Goff, making it easier on the young QB. The Titans will probably employ some false looks on defense, and then make a late change to their defensive look after McVay’s voice in he headset has been turned off at the 15-second mark.
4. Let Marcus be Marcus. When the Titans jumped into the seldom-used no-huddle last week against the Niners, it worked as the offense moved the ball effectively when the running game could not get going from a conventional huddle with the power attack. The Titans won’t completely abandon what they want to do, but putting more in Mariota’s hands on the fly with the two-minute set seems to be what is needed for a sluggish offensive attack.
5. Time and turnovers. The Titans haven’t been able to run the ball consistently all year, and there’s no reason to think they will overpower the Rams front seven, led by Aaron Donald. But they need to be able to run the football often enough and control the clock. Keeping the ball out of the Rams’ hands will be important. Also, the Titans have gotten lots of sacks over the last month of the season, but very few takeaways that usually come with that. A timely interception or fumble recovery to help set up the offense would be more than welcome.