NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans snapped a six-game losing streak last Sunday on New Orleans. Now, they hope to snap a nine-game home losing streak when the Panthers visit Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at five keys/things to watch in Sunday's game:
The Titans kept quarterback Marcus Mariota clean in New Orleans. After getting sacked 19 times in his first five starts, Mariota wasn't sacked once by the Saints. Part of it was because of a reshuffled offensive line, and part of it was because Mariota got the ball out quicker by design. The Panthers have 25 sacks on the season, with defensive lineman Kawann Short leading the way with six. Keeping Mariota out of harm's way will be key once again.
Get Cam to the ground**
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has 343 yards and five touchdowns on the ground this season. He's a load, and he's tough to get down. Newton will keep plays alive by fighting off sacks, but he'll also make plays outside the pocket. Gang tackling will be key, especially when he's on the move. And defenders better be ready to get physical because Newton will try and run over guys.
Win the turnover battle
The Titans won the turnover battle against the Saints for the first time since the season opener, which partly explains why they were able to win the game. The Titans were a plus-1 vs the Bucs, and plus-1 vs the Saints. In some of their losses this was a one-sided stats – minus-3 at Cleveland, minus-2 vs Miami and minus-3 at Houston. It's hard to win that way. The Titans need to create some turnovers and protect the football.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Carolina Panthers. (AP Photos)
Tight end Greg Olsen is Newton's favorite target — he has 37 catches for 584 yards and five touchdowns. Olsen is a good athlete who has a knack for getting open. Carolina's receiving corps isnt' scary – Ted Ginn, Jr., and Devin Funchess have had their moments, but they're hardly dominant. The Titans have been mostly solid against tight ends this year, although Tampa Bay's Austin Seferian-Jenkins (5-110-2) sure had a big day against them in Week 1.
Run the football
One of the best ways to help Mariota is the running game. Run the ball consistently, and Mariota has the ability to make even more plays. Antonio Andrews was a workhorse for the Titans in New Orleans, running for a career-high 88 yards. The Titans are expected to rely on him again this week. The Panthers are ranked 15th in the NFL in run defense, and they boast two of the game's top linebackers in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, so it won't be easy.