NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Six things standing out for the Titans after Monday's loss to the Texans, and heading into this week's game against the New York Jets at Nissan Stadium.
Too Many Sacks
Quarterback Marcus Mariota has taken the blame, saying he's holding the ball too long. Left tackle Taylor Lewan spoke for the offensive linemen, saying the group needs to do a better job protecting the QB. Coach Mike Vrabel pointed to other factors, such as the inability to run the ball, which would help in play-action. No matter what it is, Mariota has been sacked 35 times in 10 games after being sacked just 27 times in 15 games a year ago. The Titans better find a way to make it stop.
The Titans were just plain bad in run defense against the Texans, as running back Lamar Miller racked up 162 yards on just 12 carries, including a 97-yard TD run. As a team, the Titans allowed 281 yards on the ground – more than the previous four games combined (261). The Titans now rank 17th in run defense after entering the contest ranked 11th. Jets running back Isaiah Crowell has 582 yards and six touchdowns, with a 4.9-yard average. The Titans need to stiffen up here again.
Jonnu Smith's Speed
Titans tight end Jonnu Smith said on Wednesday he ran a 4.62 in 40 at the NFL Combine, but he looked faster than that on his 61-yard touchdown catch and run on Monday night. Smith has been a playmaker for the Titans in recent weeks, with touchdowns in three of the past four games. How about this stat: With a touchdown catch on Sunday against the Jets, Smith would become the first tight end in the "Titans era" to record a touchdown reception four games in a five-game span.
Mariota completed his first 19 passes against the Texans, and he finished the game 22-of-23. With a 70.3 completion percentage this season, Mariota is on pace to shatter his previous career high for completion percentage (62.2 in 2015). His current passer rating of 95.6 is currently tied with his career best in 2016. Mariota's completion percentages, starting with the London game: Chargers (75.0), Cowboys (72.4), Patriots (66.7), Colts (76.9) and Texans (95.7).
Vrabel wants to see the defense force some turnovers. "We have to get some ball disruption and some turnovers, tips some balls at the line of scrimmage and start getting some of those interceptions that show up each week," he said on Tuesday. "Those turnovers go a long way in helping you play defense." It's been a while since the Titans have created one. The Titans haven't intercepted a pass since safety Kevin Byard's pick in Dallas, and they haven't recovered a fumble since linebacker Wesley Woodyard jumped on a loose ball against the Cowboys.
I get it – no one likes to see a team's punter praised, because it means a stalling offense helped get him on the field. I gave Titans punter Brett Kern props on Twitter during Monday's game, and you'd think I'd a dropped a curse word on social media. But the facts are the facts, and Kern has heated up. A Pro Bowler last year, Kern is now averaging an AFC best 47.8 yards, with a 41.3-yard net. Now, I think everyone would just like to see less of him.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Week 12 of the 2018 season on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 at NRG Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)