Tennessee Titans glad to control own playoff destiny

By The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 26, 2017 at 10:41 PM
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With the Tennessee Titans headed into a must-win situation on Sunday against Jacksonville to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008, some obstacles must be overcome.

First off, the Titans have lost three games in a row and are 0-for-December this season, falling to three straight NFC West teams.

Now they try to regroup and win one game with an all-in situation against the Jaguars, who have little to play for, having locked up the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs already.

For the Titans, the situation is simple -- win and in; lose and go home. Sure, they could still back into the playoffs on a four-game losing streak if both the Bills and Chargers lose along with them on Sunday. But the mindset for the Titans is to take care of business, end the slide and move into the postseason.

"They've been told that already. They already know that. No need to watch, just need to play," Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said of not having to scoreboard watch on Sunday.

Mularkey said his squad already has a playoff-type mindset from playing the NFC West champion Rams last Sunday.

"If you watched them on Sunday, everything they had they put on the field. That was what was so disappointing after the loss and how the game unfolded, knowing how hard they played and the effort they put into it. That won't be a question, that's how these guys are," Mularkey said.

A win on Sunday would most likely pit the Titans against the Jaguars the following week in the wild-card playoffs, as Tennessee's most likely place in the postseason would be as a No. 6 seed. The Titans, however, could slide into the fifth seed if they win and Cincinnati defeats Baltimore.

--The Titans have not yet ruled running back DeMarco Murray out for Sunday's finale after he suffered a knee injury against the Rams. But it appears that Derrick Henry will carry the load in the running game for Tennessee.

Murray has been through a variety of injuries this season -- hamstring, previous knee injury and a shoulder -- but has not missed any games.

"He hurt his knee, but I'm not going to rule him out just yet. The thing with DeMarco -- based on some of the other things he's had happen to him and how quickly he responds to treatment. So, I'd say he's day-to-day right now and I just hope for the best. Maybe in a limited role, we don't know yet," Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said.

Henry would likely handle the majority of the reps, including the no-huddle where Murray has had most of the snaps.

"We're very comfortable (with Derrick). We practice it weekly. He gets as many reps as anybody, as DeMarco (Murray). So, we're very comfortable with him in it," Mularkey said.

--Mularkey was not happy with a ruling from the officials that took away an onside kick recovery when the Rams were still on the sideline following a TV timeout.

What caused the confusing ruling on the field apparently was that the Rams and Titans were told different things about the amount of time for the timeout.

"I think one side was told one thing and the other side was told another, and then they put the ball into play. It was a mistake and I think they admitted that. Tough one to take," Mularkey said.

NOTES: QB Marcus Mariota threw his 15th interception of the season Sunday, after throwing just 19 picks in his first two seasons combined. ... CB Logan Ryan missed Sunday's game and might not practice until late in the week with an ankle injury, but the Titans hope he can play against the Jaguars.


--PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Marcus Mariota threw a costly interception early in the game, but bounced back to go 22 of 39 for 275 yards. Rookie Corey Davis had his best game of the season with six catches for 90 yards.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- This grade is probably generous, given the Titans' struggles to run the football, but from the no-huddle spread offense, DeMarco Murray did have a nice 6-yard touchdown run, and the run game wasn't a total loss with 97 yards on 26 carries. Failing to get in on three cracks from the 1-yard line early in the game was unacceptable.

--PASS DEFENSE: F -- Todd Gurley had 158 yards on 10 catches, including an 80-yard screen pass where he outran the Titans defense to the end zone. Jared Goff completed 22 of 38 passes for 301 yards and four touchdowns.

--RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The normally strong run defense, ranked third in the league, allowed Gurley to become the first player since Herschel Walker in 1986 to have 100 yards rushing and 150 yards receiving in the same game.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Other than Ryan Succop's 45-yard missed field goal, the Titans special teams played relatively well. Adoree' Jackson had a 56-yard kickoff return. Punter Brett Kern was hit on a punt that was short, but there should have been a roughing call.

--COACHING: C -- The Titans have lost three straight and it's easy to place the blame at the feet of the coaching staff. But while coaching played a role in losses to Arizona and San Francisco, this team looked prepared to play Sunday. The Rams just executed better at the most important moments.

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