NASHVILLE – There was nothing normal about the Titans preseason finale on Saturday night.
For starters, head coach Mike Vrabel wasn't there, unable to coach due to COVID-19 protocols.
Roughly a half-dozen Titans players also weren't available, along with two assistant coaches, due to protocols.
Instead, as the team announced earlier in the day, special teams coach Craig Aukerman handled team communication with players, while John Streicher, coordinator of football development, handled game decisions, communication with coaches and playtime management.
All of this on a night when the Titans held out a good number of their front-liners against the Chicago Bears.
Yes, it was an interesting way to wrap up the preseason.
Now, following the team's 27-24 loss to the Bears, it's time to turn the focus to the regular season, which will kick off on September 12 against the Arizona Cardinals at Nissan Stadium.
"Of course, guys talked about that just in the locker room," Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons said after the game. "It's next-game mentality. We haven't started yet all the way on the Cardinals, but whenever that time comes, I'm sure coaches are going to have the right game plan in place and put us in the right position to get that win for game one."
Before then, some tough decisions will need to be made. All NFL teams must trim their rosters to 53 players by Tuesday, which means many of the players who suited up for the Titans against the Bears won't be on the team by mid-week. Others, meanwhile, will find themselves on the team's practice squad.
Some big decisions are on the horizon.
"The biggest thing is you can't control anything besides your play, and what you do on a daily basis," receiver Cameron Batson. "Each and every day you have to keep going out there and pushing regardless of the circumstances."
But first, let's take a look back at Saturday night, as the Titans wrapped up their preseason slate with a 2-1 record with wins over the Falcons and Buccaneers, and the loss to the Bears.
The Titans once again showed positive signs on offense and defense, but there were more mistakes in this one compared to the previous two games, when they outscored their opponents by a combined score of 57-6.
Early on, Simmons and linebacker Jayon Brown combined to stop Bears running back Damien Williams on the fourth-and-one run late in the first quarter, which gave the Titans good field position.
Quarterback Logan Woodside, who took over for starter Matt Barkley, then directed an 11-play, 51-yard drive to give the Titans a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. The drive was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Mekhi Sargent on 4th and goal from the one-yard line.
The Bears tied the game when Woodside was picked off by cornerback Tre Roberson, who returned it 27 yards for an interception to make it 7-7 with 7:22 left in the first half. Woodside was hit as he threw the ball, and Roberson intercepted the errant pass and took it in for the score.
The Titans reclaimed the lead late in the second quarter, thanks in large part to a 50-yard gain on a screen pass from Barkley to fullback Khari Blasingame, who showed some serious speed on the play.
It set up a 21-yard field goal by kicker Sam Ficken, which made it 10-7 with 1:47 left before halftime.
But the Bears answered back 55 seconds later on a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Fields to tight end Jesper Horsted to make it 14-10 Bears at the half.
The Bears made it 21-10 early in a third quarter on a Nick Foles touchdown pass to Horsted, this one from six yards out.
The Titans had a pretty quick one-two punch for an answer, however, as running back Javian Hawkins scored on a one-yard touchdown drive to cap off a 10-play, 80-yard drive with 3:04 left in the third quarter. Hawkins just got to town on Thursday, signed to help a running backs room depleted by bad health.
Then, Woodside connected with Batson for a six-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-one to give the Titans a 24-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Chicago didn't fold, however, as Foles connected with Holsted for yet another touchdown – this one from 54 yards – to give the Bears a 27-24 lead with 6:51 left, and the Titans couldn't rally.
Woodside ended up completing 12-of-17 passes for 100 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the contest. Barkley, meanwhile, completed 7-of-15 passes for 126 yards with an interception.
Sargent ended with 51 yards rushing, while running back Brian Hill led the team with 63 rushing yards.
Batson was the team's leading receiver with four catches for 45 yards and the score.
"One thing I did was try and give everything I had tonight," Woodside said. "Just try and be out there with the guys and lead them down the field and score points. … The preseason is now over, and now we're going on to Arizona. We've already looked at Arizona a little bit. For me, I just want to watch the tape and see how I can improve and see what happens over the next few days."
The Titans return to the practice field on Monday, with roster cuts scheduled for a day later.
The Tennessee Titans prepare to take on the Chicago Bears in Week 3 of Preseason at Nissan Stadium.