NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Six thoughts after Sunday's 34-6 loss to the Texans.
Show up, and fight
The draft math is now simple. With a loss at Indianapolis on Sunday, the Titans would secure the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft. I've already heard from plenty of fans who'd like to see the Titans lose, so they'd be guaranteed the top pick. I can guarantee you no player, coach, or anyone in management is thinking along those same lines. The Titans need to show up in Indianapolis ready to play. And the team should have plenty of incentive to save face after a forgettable performance against the Texans.
Not all on Mularkey**
Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey stood at the podium after Sunday's game and pretty much took blame for everything that went wrong. He even said the turnovers could be attributed to him because "I'm not getting the message across." It's admirable for Mularkey to deflect the blame off the players. But it was running back Antonio Andrews who was sloppy with the football, and lost it. Harry Douglas fumbled the ball on a punt return, and that's on him. There was plenty of blame to go around after Sunday's game, and not all of it belonged on Mularkey's lap.
The Titans have been outscored 64-19 in the three games started by back-up quarterback Zach Mettenberger this season. While the scoring margin isn't all on Mettenberger, there's no question the Titans are a different team without Marcus Mariota. And that becomes more evident every time Mariota's not out there. Mettenberger was dealt a bad hand on Sunday. His teammates helped dig an early hole, and starting left tackle (Taylor Lewan) and a starting receiver (Kendall Wright) went out early. Mariota's play-making ability gives the Titans more of a chance to deal with adversity when he's on the field, however.
Give Sankey one more shot
Coaches gave Andrews more of an opportunity midway through the season, and he had some positive moments in the offense. He runs hard. But Andrews has had back-to-back tough games – he missed a key blocking assignment against the Patriots, and he was responsible for two turnovers Sunday. David Cobb has had some opportunities as well, but his success has been limited. I'd give Bishop Sankey more chances against the Colts. Sankey made the most of his opportunities late on Sunday – he played 30 snaps -- and he's plenty motivated to go out with a bang.
The Tennessee Titans take on the New Houston Texans in Week 16 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
Kern stays hot**
Yes, I get it – no one wants to talk about punters. But that doesn't mean I'm going to ignore the day Titans punter Brett Kern had on Sunday, or his season. Kern punted nine times for a 47.4-yard average against the Texans, and he put seven punts inside the 20. Kern's net was 43.3 yards. With one game to play, Kern's average is 47.3, which isn't far off his career-best 47.6-yard average in 2012. His net average of 39.9, not far behind his career best of 40.8 yards in 2014. The Titans play indoors in Indianapolis, so conditions will be favorable for another big day.
The Titans stayed in a lot of games earlier in the season because of the team's defense. But the unit has struggled of late, allowing over 30 points in each of the last four games – Jaguars (39), Jets (30), Patriots (33) and Texans (34). The Titans allowed over 30 points just twice in the first 11 games. A big part of the problem has been the lack of a pass rush – the Titans have just seven sacks in the last five games after racking up 31 in the first 10 games. The Titans have also struggled mightily on third down, as opponents have converted 39-of-76 (51.3 percent) in the last five contests.