Knack for finishing games not showing up early for Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have a great knack for finishing games. Moving the ball after the opening kickoff is their big problem.

The Titans have scored only 20 points in the first quarter all season and have been shut out in two games. Worse, they’ve scored only once on an opening drive, settling for a field goal against the Jets, with a trio of three-and-outs.

“We do have to get off to better starts and try to help ourselves early in the game,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.

Derrick Henry got the Titans started offensively Monday night with a 76-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He said Thursday that the Titans just have to be better.

“We have a great offense and guys that go out and make plays, but we just have to put drives together early,” Henry said. “We are stalling. That is all on us. Just going out there, putting a drive together, get a rhythm, getting downfield, getting points, but have just been stalling a lot early.”

The Titans (4-2) have won twice when starting a game with a three-and-out, beating Seattle in overtime and downing the Colts. They also rallied to beat Buffalo on Monday night after trailing 6-0 after the first quarter. They can’t afford another slow start Sunday against Kansas City (3-3) which scores 30.8 points a game.

Scoring isn’t a big problem for Tennessee. The Titans rank eighth, averaging 27.8 points a game and have topped 33 three times this season.

They’ve been at their best in the fourth quarter where they are outscoring opponents 56-29. They scored 10 unanswered points in beating Buffalo 34-31 on Monday night for Tennessee’s league-best 13th victory when trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime since 2018 under Vrabel.

First-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing doesn’t have a set number of scripted plays going into games, focusing more on situations that the Titans might face in the first 10 to 15 plays. He noted the Titans have had self-inflicted issues with penalties and missed opportunities.

“We’ve all just got to focus on doing our individual job and get the thing going a little bit smoother right out of the gate,” Downing said.

Ryan Tannehill was just 2 of 8 for 16 yards in the first quarter against Buffalo. The quarterback says it’s tough to say why the offense has struggled in the first quarter so far this season.

“Sometimes things just aren’t going your way,” Tannehill said. “I think we had some opportunities early in this past game and as a group we didn’t make the plays. It is definitely something we want to improve on.”

Tannehill was almost perfect in the second half. He completed every pass in the fourth quarter, going 9 of 9 with a penalty wiping out a 10th completion. He was 14 of 17 for 145 yards in the second half.

Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo says they’ve talked about being as concerned about Tannehill as they are Henry, the NFL’s leading rusher.

“All the focus goes on 22 because of who he is and what he does, and yet you can’t lose focus of what you all have been talking about, the two wideouts they got out there, the quarterback will tuck and run with it,” Spagnuolo said.

The Titans are working to fix their early game struggles.

“We don’t want to have that to keep occurring week after week,” Henry said.

NOTES: WR A.J. Brown (illness) missed a second straight practice. LT Taylor Lewan (concussion) and WR Chester Rogers (groin) also did not practice. Henry was given the day off for rest. OLB Bud Dupree, who wasn’t on Wednesday’s injury report was limited with his knee.

___

Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Related Categories:

NFL News | Sports

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up