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Hot Topics from Titans Coach Mike Vrabel's Monday Presser


NASHVILLE – Titans coach Mike Vrabel held a press conference on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, one day after the team's 27-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Next up for the Titans is a game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in Charlotte.

Here's a look at some of the hot topics:

Fake Field Goal

Vrabel's decision to try a fake field goal with holder/punter Brett Kern running it on fourth-and-two from the Tampa Bay 28-yard line late in Sunday's game didn't work.

It was the focus of several questions the day after despite the team's win.

"That decision, we didn't execute it," Vrabel said. "I think if any play is executed correctly, it is going to work. There's a lot of decisions that occur during the course of the game guys. We make 'em, and if they don't work ...

"We're trying to win the game – that's what we're trying to do on each and every opportunity that we have to make a decision."

Vrabel said Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White made an "absolutely fantastic play" to stop Kern short of the first-down marker.

"We need to execute it better in order to get it," Vrabel said. "The big hope there was to get the first down on a play that we really love, a play that we've worked on for a long time against a look that we wanted. We didn't get it – didn't execute it."

Red Zone Success

Under the direction of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Titans were a perfect 3-for-3 in the red zone a week ago vs. the Chargers, and on Sunday they were once again 3-of-3.

In his first two starts, Tannehill has five touchdown passes vs. only one interception.

The Titans are now tied for 3rd in the NFL in red zone offense, up from 23rd a year ago.

"We made a huge commitment to it in the spring," Vrabel said. "When you have the non-contact OTAs, you are trying to establish a base foundation and then work some plays off of it maybe each week that you feel like are a scheme play.

"I do think the players are comfortable with what is being called and what they are being asked to do."

Jonnu Smith's Work Ethic

Titans tight end Jonnu Smith caught a team-high six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, a week after a three-catch, 64-yard performance against the Chargers.

On the season, Smith now has 15 catches for 239 yards and a score. His average per catch is 15.9 yards.

"He is a tireless worker, and he has a great attitude," Vrabel said of Smith. "He comes to work every single day ready to learn, ready to improve. He is focused in meetings. (Tight ends coach) Todd Downing has worked very well with him one-on-one.

"It is always refreshing to see good things happen to great people. I think Jonnu is a great person, great player, great teammate."

Jeffery Simmons Feels Good

Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons saw his snap count jump from 21 vs the Chargers to 34 vs the Buccaneers.

And he felt good.

"I would say that he felt better today than he did last Monday," Vrabel said of Simmons, who was credited with three tackles on Sunday. "So that would probably be the most positive thing that I would take from that – after his second NFL game, coming back from (the ACL injury), that he feels better today.

"So that means he is getting used to it and understanding there will be some bumps and bruises and soreness, so he feels better today."

"A Critical Time"

The Titans have now won back-to-back games for the first time this season.

The team is sitting at 4-4 at the season's halfway point, but finds itself in catch-up mode in the AFC South behind the Colts (5-2) and Texans (5-3) while battling with the Jaguars (4-4).

"This is a critical time for us as a football team," Vrabel said. "There is no bye this week. We are just like every other team in the National Football League, I would say, operating at less than 100 percent. It is a vicious game and so there's a fine line between trying to improve on the practice field, which is what you have to do, and make sure that our guys are ready to play."

Rodger Saffold

Titans guard Rodger Saffold is in concussion protocol, Vrabel said.

Vrabel was not asked to update the health of any other player on the roster.

Up Next: Panthers

The Panthers are 4-3, and they're coming off a 51-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Earlier today, Panthers coach Ron Rivera announced Kyle Allen as Carolina's starting quarterback this week against the Titans, as Cam Newton remains sidelined with an injury.

Christian McCaffrey had 735 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the season, along with 39 catches for 343 yards and two scores.

Linebacker Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine.

"They probably have one of the most dynamic running backs in the league from a rushing and receiving standpoint," Vrabel said of McCaffrey. "It looked like Allen had gotten off to a really nice start – I guess he threw some interceptions yesterday.

"Any defense that has Luke Kuechly on it is going to be a very good defense. I enjoy watching him play from an instinctive standpoint, a production standpoint and a leadership standpoint. Every week is a challenge and we need to do everything we can to get started on Carolina and getting our players ready to compete against them."

Check the Titans team photographer's top photos from Sunday's Week 8 game against the Buccaneers. (Photos by: Donald Page)

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