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VOL. 44 | NO. 40 | Friday, October 2, 2020

Titans must fortify porous defense against run

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First down: Figure out how to stop the run. Dalvin Cook ran wild for 181 yards last week. That’s after James Robinson of Jacksonville ran for more than 100 yards the week before. That has to be figured out by Mike Vrabel, who is the head coach and de facto defensive coordinator this season. Some of it comes from missed tackles. Some is bad gap fits and getting out of position. But whatever is wrong, it cannot continue to happen.

Second down

Get in the zone. The Titans like press man coverage and one-on-one matchups. But with Adoree’ Jackson out, Malcolm Butler up one week and down the next and Johnathan Joseph’s lack of speed, the Titans might have to resort to more zone schemes to avoid giving up big plays. A veteran QB like Ben Roethlisberger will try and make plays downfield if he finds a matchup he can exploit.

Third down

Finish drives. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski brought his A game against the Vikings after being awful in his debut two weeks earlier. Just the same, the Titans would rather he not kick six field goals in a game and instead be kicking more extra points. That means that the Titans third down rate has to be better than it was in Minnesota in order to keep the chains moving.

Fourth down

Keep running downhill. One of the reasons the Titans have been able to pull out games in the second half has been that they have been able to keep balance even late in games when trailing. It worked against Denver, when the Titans were able to get a couple of key carries from Derrick Henry in the final quarter.

On Sunday, the Titans did not panic when trailing 24-12 halfway through the third quarter. Instead, they kept Henry as part of the offense, which in turn kept the defense honest and opened up play-action, which Ryan Tannehill exploited a couple of times in key situations.

-- Terry McCormick

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