NASHVILLE – The Titans lost to the Cowboys 27-13 on Thursday night at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things that stood out in the contest:
Byard the Baller
Titans safety Kevin Byard said he didn't have to convince head coach Mike Vrabel to let him play on Thursday night. With a number of veterans held out, Byard was among a handful of veteran starters who suited up. Byard not only played – he played especially well, recording a pair of interceptions while being credited with six tackles. "I went into the week assuming I was going to play," Byard said. "I had a conversation with Vrabel, but it was nothing about, "Hey, do you want to play or don't want to play?' If he would have told me I (wasn't) going to play, then we would have had another conversation. I try to fight for this team – that's my job as a leader. If I am healthy, I am going to go."
Dobbs Makes His Case
Most folks expected the Titans to start rookie Malik Willis at quarterback on Thursday night, but Vrabel and his staff had other ideas. So, the Titans instead started Josh Dobbs, and he made his case to be the starter in the season-finale against the Jaguars. In his first NFL start, just eight days after signing with the team, Dobbs completed 20-of-39 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw an interception in the fourth quarter. "It was a great opportunity to evaluate Josh, and we'll make a decision going forward," Vrabel said after the game. "I thought he did some good things, and obviously a couple of throws he'd like to have back. We'll see where things are here in a couple of days." Dobbs said coaches told him earlier in the week he'd start on Thursday night. So, does he expect to start in the regular season finale in Jacksonville? "That's up to the coaches," Dobbs said. "I think they're going to put whoever gives us the best opportunity to win out there. I'll respect their decision, and we'll see when we regroup over the weekend and we'll go from there."
Too Many Drops
Dobbs made some nice throws on the move, delivering a lot of balls with accuracy. He wasn't perfect – he threw an interception, and he was nearly intercepted another time. Dobbs also lost a fumble, and he sailed some throws over the arms of his intended targets. But the Titans also failed to make some plays around him. Receiver Robert Woods, who otherwise had a nice night (five catches, 39 yards and a touchdown) had a drop, and so did tight end Austin Hooper. Receiver Treylon Burks let a catchable ball go off his hands, and running back Hassan Haskins had a drop as well. The Titans made some plays in the passing game – from Racey McMath's 39-yard catch to some nice plays by Burks (four catches, 66 yards) to a catch and run for 33 yards by running back Julius Chestnut. But the Titans are going to need to be cleaner moving forward.
Too Many Penalties
Speaking of being cleaner, the Titans also hurt themselves with penalties. The team was penalized 10 times for 124 yards in the contest. Cornerback Roger McCreary was flagged twice for pass interference penalties, and once for defensive holding. Cornerback Tre Avery had a costly DPI on a third-and-19. Tackle Dennis Daley was flagged twice for false starts. "We just beat ourselves too much," Vrabel said. "It is too hard to beat the Cowboys, or good football teams, when you beat yourself. But I thought we competed. I was extremely proud of the way the 47 guys we had up tonight competed. We gave ourselves a chance but did too many things that hurt us."
Sidelined Titans and the Tannehill Decision
The Titans placed QB Ryan Tannehill, OLB Bud Dupree, and OLB Zach Cunningham on Injured Reserve earlier in the day while also ruling out RB Derrick Henry, DL Denico Autry, DL Jeffery Simmons, CB Kristian Fulton, OL Nicholas Petit-Frere, and S Amani Hooker, among others. Some of the moves were made, in part, to have guys ready to go for the Week 18 contest in Jacksonville against the Jaguars. Vrabel said the decision to put Tannehill on IR was a tough one. "It's always difficult, but I think you have to be realistic as well, where we're at and what as a realistic expectation for Ryan to come back and how long that would be, and what that may look like when he did come back," Vrabel said. "So that was the decision that we made. He was obviously disappointed. We've talked about his toughness. It's no different than all the other guys we've had to put on IR."
Win or Go Home Next Weekend
The Titans have now lost six straight games. The Titans return to action next weekend against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, on either January 7 or January 8. The exact date and time for the contest – which will decide the AFC South – will be announced in the coming days. In the locker room after the game, it was clear the focus had already shifted to what's next. "I can guarantee you this: I am going to make sure everybody … mentally, physically (we) need to get prepared to go win a playoff game," Byard said. "That's pretty much what it is – a playoff game (vs Jacksonville). You win, you keep playing. You lose, we all go home."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 at Nissan Stadium.
The Tennessee Titans prepare to take on the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 at Nissan Stadium.
The Tennessee Titans arrive at Nissan Stadium for their Week 17 Game against the Dallas Cowboys.