NASHVILLE – The Titans lost to the Bears 27-24 in the preseason finale at Nissan Stadium on Saturday night.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the contest:
"Kudos to Stretch"
Head coach Mike Vrabel wasn't on the sideline due to COVID-19 protocols, and even though we knew that would be the case, it was still strange. In his absence, special teams coach Craig Aukerman handled team communication with players, while John "Stretch" Streicher, coordinator of football development, handled game decisions, communication with coaches and playtime management. Streicher ended up winning a challenge, and he also went for it twice on 4th and 1, and both were successful, resulting in touchdowns. "You always are looking to the sideline, looking to hear coach Vrabel's voice – he is always animated, and hyped," receiver Cameron Batson said. "He gets the guys going, so it was definitely different not having him on the sideline. (But) it was great seeing Stretch out there. Stretch is a great guy, knows the game in and out. When Vrabes told him he'd be taking over the duties for tonight, I know Stretch was happy. He actually made a good call when he threw the red flag out there on that catch (that was overturned). So, kudos to stretch."
Titans fullback Khari Blasingame added some weight this offseason by design. He did it so he'd be sturdier as a blocker in front of running back Derrick Henry. It doesn't look like Blasingame, who played at Vanderbilt, lost any speed because of it. Blasingame caught a screen pass from quarterback Matt Barkley, and he raced downfield for a 50-yard gain. His speed was on full display as he raced through would-be tacklers before he was taken down at the Chicago six-yard line. "(OC Todd Downing) dialed it up and just tried to go through my assignment and do what I had to do, and it turned out well," Blasingame said. "(I was) just trying to go over there and do my job."
Return of Taylor Lewan, and Others
Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan didn't play a lot in the preseason finale, but for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last October, he played. Lewan started against the Bears, alongside left guard Rodger Saffold. The veterans joined center Daniel Munyer, right guard Dillon Radunz and right tackle David Quessenberry in the starting lineup. "It was awesome," Lewan said. "I was just so excited to go play, and I have worked so hard since October to make that happen. I felt like the exact same guy. I felt – it was just awesome to be out there, especially being out there with Rodger and those guys. I am just happy. It was literally just one of the best feelings ever just to know that – you keep telling yourself through the process you are going to be OK, it is going to be all right, then when you are actually able to play you know it is going to be all right."
Receiver Cameron Batson is a fighter, and a competitor. Batson rose to the occasion again on Saturday night, as he led the team with four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. Batson caught a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Logan Woodside on a fourth-down play. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Batson led the Titans with two receiving touchdowns in the preseason. "Me and the guys were joking," Batson said. "They were like: They can't measure your heart. And that is the thing: I have a big heart. You can measure my height and my weight, but I am going to go out and give it my all regardless of my size."
The Titans alternated quarterbacks again on Saturday night. Chances are, that likely would've been the case even if starter Ryan Tannehill hadn't ended up on the team's Reserve/COVID-19 list. The reps gave back-up QBs Logan Woodside and Matt Barkley one more chance to shine before decisions are made. I liked Woodside's spunk – he made some nice throws while taking some hits, and he finished the night 12-of-17 for 100 yards with a score and an INT. Woodside finished the preseason 29-of-40 for 248 yards and three touchdowns, with an INT, and a passer rating of 102.9. "I jus tried to give everything I had out there tonight," Woodside said. Barkley, meanwhile, started the game and finished 7-of-15 for 126 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Barkley finished the preseason 24-of-39 for 295 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. Now, the Titans have a decision to make on their No.2 QB, as the team must trim its roster to 53 players by Tuesday. "It is up in the air for a lot of guys," Barkley said. "You just have to stay confident in who you are no matter what happens and just believe in yourself at the end of the day."
What About the Defense?
The Titans defense, after not allowing a touchdown in the first two preseason games, gave up a touchdown on Saturday night. The unit gave up three TDs, in fact. It wasn't a horrific night for the defense – the Titans gave up only 12 first downs, and 252 yards of total offense. The Bears converted just 3-of-10 on third down. The Titans got a fourth and one stop, but on this night, the defense managed just one sack and no turnovers. "I was encouraged with the way we have been playing," Titans defensive coordinator Shane Bowen said. "Not necessarily the points aspect of it, but the way we have been playing, the energy, the flying around. … But I've been encouraged up to this point with guys momentum that we're kind of starting to build, confidence, everything that goes with it."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Chicago Bears in Week 3 of Preseason at Nissan Stadium.