Titans must find way to shake off first-half failures

Titans must find way to shake off first-half failures

The Tennessee Titans have basically sealed their fate in many games this season in the first half.
In four of the Titans’ five losses this season, they have been shutout in the first half. In the fifth loss – a 19-17 week two setback against Indianapolis, Tennessee managed just seven points in the first two quarters.
At 4-5 and with the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs coming to town – possibly with QB Patrick Mahomes returning from injury – the Titans have no margin for error if they want to keep up with Kansas City.
There have been a variety of culprits in the Titans’ first-half misdeeds, be it penalties, sacks, runs for lost yardage, turnovers, questionable play-calling, dropped passes or errant throws. All of those things have cropped up at various times and have made the Titans’ offense sputter more times than not this season. A change at quarterback from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill improved the offense somewhat, but has not nearly solved all the problems.
“We have to play clean and with fundamentals. It’s something we’ve talked about in the meeting room, on the practice field, and Coach (Mike) Vrabel in front of the whole team. He spends a lot of time on technique and fundamentals, and just playing clean football,” Tannehill said. “When you go back to the beginning of the year, there are too many drives early in games that have been stopped by ourselves – penalties, dumb mistakes. We just have to play clean football, play with fundamentals, play with good technique and take care of the football, and moving the ball.”
Penalties have been a big issue, and in last Sunday’s loss at Carolina, the Titans had 11 of them for 99 yards. That comes a year after the Titans were one of the least penalized teams in the NFL in 2018.
“From watching the game, you just see negative plays add up,” receiver Adam Humphries said. “When you want to get off to a good start, you don’t need negative plays and penalties, plays with no gains and putting yourself in third and long. That’s kind of been the theme all year, just not putting ourselves in a good position on first and second downs to get to a manageable third down.”
Being in manageable down and distances would allow the Titans to keep running back Derrick Henry more involved. Henry had just two first-half carries (plus another wiped out by penalty) against Carolina, but then led Tennessee down the field to open the second half with a TD drive. It is imperative that the Titans get him the football early and often.
“Derrick is a big, tough runner. We want to get him carries and get him going early and set the tone that way and play off of that,” Tannehill said. “I don’t think we’re playing clean football right now, especially in the first half, and it’s coming back to haunt us.”
Vrabel preached that taking advantage of opportunities is key, but so is being fundamentally sound enough to create chances to score with efficient drives.
“We knew that our ability to get down to the red zone and continue to score touchdowns was going to be a key, we just didn’t get down there soon enough,” Vrabel said. “So, we just have to make sure that we’re ready to go and that we’re not hurting ourselves early in the game, and when we do get it down there, that we’re able to string some plays together like we did the other day – whether we get it down there by a big play, or it happened to be a penalty.”
For the Titans this week, a fast start to keep up with the Chiefs is a necessity, even though the defense has played well for the most part this year.
“There’s definitely a sense of urgency, and it’s on us. We can’t wait till the second half to pick up the pace and starting playing some ball,” receiver Corey Davis said.

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