NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Six things standing out for the Titans at the bye week:
Mariota has been on fire. In the past eight games Mariota has 21 touchdowns vs. only three interceptions. He's thrown at least two touchdown passes in eight consecutive games, and is now the third player in franchise history with 25 touchdowns in a season. He's the first since Warren Moon did it in 1990. On the season, Mariota has 2,998 passing yards with 25 touchdowns vs only eight interceptions. His passer rating is 101.9. Not too shabby.
Mariota was sacked 38 times in 12 games a year ago. This season, he's been sacked just 18 times in 12 games. Credit goes to a rebuilt offensive line under new o-line coach Russ Grimm. In four of the team's 12 games, Mariota hasn't been sacked and in nine of the 12 he's been sacked two times or fewer. Tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin have been solid, but across the board the group has been consistently good.
When the Titans signed Matthews in free agency, they knew they were getting a rugged receiver who'd be willing to make tough catches in traffic. Matthews has been much more than that for the Titans. Matthews leads the team with 669 receiving yards, and with 48 catches he trails only tight end Delanie Walker, who has 49. Matthews has a team-high seven touchdowns on the season, and all have come in the last eight games.
In the hunt
The Titans are in the thick of things heading into the final four games of the season, and not a lot of folks predicted it. With six wins, they've already doubled last year's win total (3), and they've tripled the win total from 2014, when the team won just two games. There's excitement in the air in Nashville, and around the team. Players know they have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs, but the team has to take care of business. Still, for the first time in a while, December should be fun.
The Titans weren't able to get to Bears quarterback Matt Barkley on Sunday, but there haven't been many games like that. The Titans have 30 sacks on the season, led by linebackers Brian Orakpo (9) and Derrick Morgan (8). The Titans have four games with at least four sacks, including two six-sack games (Dolphins, Browns) and a five-sack performance (against the Packers). The Titans will need to turn up the heat down the stretch.
Led by Mariota, the Titans have been fantastic here. The Titans are ranked No.1 in the NFL in red zone offense, with 29 touchdowns in 40 trips inside the 20-yard line, and 11 field goals. The TD percentage is an impressive 72.5 percent. Something really impressive: Mariota now has 32 touchdowns vs 0 interceptions in the red zone in his NFL career. Now that's red hot.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Chicago Bears in Week 12 action at Soldier Field. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)