NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans travel to New Orleans to face the Saints on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Here's a look at five keys/things to watch in Sunday's game:
Play with passion**
The Titans remember how the Dolphins played when they made a coaching change. They came into Nissan Stadium with an attitude, and the Titans couldn't match their intensity in a lopsided 38-10 loss. Under interim head coach Mike Mularkey, it's time to turn the tables. The Titans held some spirited practices this week, and now it's time to release some energy against the Saints.
Yes, Marcus Mariota was the victim of a riled up Dolphins team. He suffered a knee injury in that contest, and hasn't played since. Mariota will return to action on Sunday, but if the Titans don't protect him better than they've protected the quarterback in recent weeks, he might not last long. Some changes up front on the offensive line should help.
Run the ball**
Mularkey has preached to his team and to media he wants to run the football. A smash-mouth brand of football is all about setting the tone. If the Titans can have success, it would also take pressure off of Mariota. Antonio Andrews has been billed as the workhorse in the backfield. Under Ken Whisenhunt, he didn't stay in games long enough to get into a rhythm. Will he get more opportunities – and have success – under Mularkey?
Step up WRs
Veteran Kendall Wright has been ruled out because of a knee injury, which means it's time for the team's young receivers like Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter to step up. Mularkey challenged DGB this week as a blocker and as a receiver, and the rookie said he's ready to deliver. The Titans get veteran Harry Douglas back, and his experience vs. the Saints while with the Falcons should help.
Slow down Brees
Saints quarterback Drew Brees put up ridiculous numbers last week against the Giants – 40-of-50 for 511 yards and seven touchdowns. I feel pretty safe in saying if he does that on Sunday, the Titans won't win. The Titans have to keep Brees in check like teams did at the start of the season. With a banged up secondary that could be without veteran cornerback Jason McCourty, it will be a challenge. Blidi Wreh-Wilson has already been ruled out. Some others will have to step up.