NASHVILLE, Tenn. —With four games remaining in the season, the Titans are ranked 8th in the NFL in total defense, allowing 336.1 yards per game.
It's a big improvement from a year ago, when the Titans finished 27th overall by allowing 373.0 yards per contest.
Titans assistant head coach/defense Dick LeBeau wants the defense to finish in the Top 10.
"I definitely think it is important to (the players),'' LeBeau said. "And I think they'll fight to do that."
The Titans have two big challenges coming up.
On Sunday, the Titans face the Jets, ranked 10th in the NFL in offense. The following Sunday, the Titans will face the Patriots, currently ranked 3rd in the NFL in offense.
The Titans are coming off a game when they allowed a season-high 39 points, although it came in a 42-39 win over the Jaguars.
Players know they'll need to step things up.
"As a defense we have to challenge ourselves because we made some mistakes and allowed ourselves to be in a shootout, and that is something we can't have as a defense,'' Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. "We pride ourselves in being a Top 10 defense and (it) wasn't our best day, but we were able to win because our offense made some big plays."
LeBeau told defenders they did a good job of closing out the game against Jacksonville, but said the defense didn't play well in the middle portion of the contest.
In the second half of the season, the Titans have improved against the run, and they've also been getting after the quarterback.
Since Week 9, the Titans have 16 sacks, which is second only to the Jets over the same time.
"The run defense is something we highlighted as a necessity,'' LeBeau said. "I think it has greatly improved and that's the reason our defense has improved quite honestly. We have to continue to do that."
The Titans have struggled on third down defense in recent weeks, however, and on Sunday the team gave up five touchdown passes to Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. Oakland's Derek Carr threw three touchdown passes the week before that in a loss to the Raiders.
"Our biggest problem right now is we are not getting really separated on, we are always at the ball if you notice and look back through these recent games, but we are not making plays,'' LeBeau of the pass defense. "And that is not one person at all, that is the secondary. You've got to get that long ball knocked down or intercepted. They are going to catch some, but you can't let them catch a high percentage or you are going to have problems. We just have to play the ball better. We have to make our plays on the ball."
LeBeau said he'd like to see the defense end on a high note.
He knows it won't be easy.
"The season is an overall entity, and you have to make constant progress and you have to play well, and when you get into these final games, that's when you have to be at your best,'' LeBeau said. "That's the way you want to trend your football team. We are still playing hard, and I want us to continue to grow."