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VOL. 43 | NO. 46 | Friday, November 15, 2019

Titans learn to live with home-field disadvantage

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More red than blue? It certainly seems that way during Sunday’s Titans-Chiefs at Nissan Stadium.

-- Photo By James Kenney | Ap Photo

The “elephant” in Nissan Stadium was much more prevalent than usual during Sunday’s improbable win by the Titans over the Kansas City Chiefs.

That “elephant” of course is the ever-growing and ever more noticeable fact that visiting teams are taking over the Titans’ home on Sundays and calling it their own. It was somewhat present earlier this season when the Buffalo Bills brought a big contingent of fans into Music City.

It’s been common over the years for Steelers, Cowboys or Packers fans to invade Nissan Stadium, sometimes in numbers large enough to neutralize the home-field advantage. Those fans usually took over at the close of games if the visiting team was winning as Titans fans made their way to the exits.

But rarely has the visiting team filled the stadium from the outset and taken over the way Kansas City fans did Sunday. Approximately 70% of the fans in attendance were wearing the red of the Chiefs.

At kickoff, Nissan Stadium looked like a map of the Electoral College. It had some blue patches here and there – like the coasts and urban areas on the electoral map – contrasted by wide swaths of red.

Don’t think for a minute the lack of a home-field advantage isn’t lost on Titans players and coaches. Coach Mike Vrabel even made a point to address it – unsolicited – after Sunday’s game.

“Before I go, I want to thank every one of those Titans fans that came out today,” Vrabel said of the spirited and vocal minority in the crowd. “The ones that decided to come and cheer us and yell for us and stick around, I appreciate them. Hopefully, they can bring some people with them, because I know the guys are going to play their tail off for them. They’re going to compete. It’s not always pretty, that’s football.

“I just want to thank the ones that came out here and supported us. Thank you.”

Are the Titans now beginning to experience some of the same attendance pitfalls that have plagued Vanderbilt football for decades?

When a team with a large fan base comes to town, the stadium is filled with the wrong colors. And when a not-so-popular team like the Chargers comes to Nashville, there are plenty of good seats available.

That theory will be put to the test again when the Titans return from their bye week to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose fans don’t travel particularly well.

For their part, the Titans players say they have learned to either tune out the home-field disadvantage or use it as extra motivation when such situations come to pass.

“We understand what we had coming into town and what we had against us,” safety Kevin Byard says. “We can’t control who buys tickets, but there was a lot of red out there today. I told the team in the locker room before the game that we’re all we’ve got. We are a family, and we stick together.

“The only people who are going to believe we can win the ballgame is going to be us. And that’s what it was.”

Tight end Anthony Firkser, who had a touchdown and a key reception on Tennessee’s final drive, knew what the Titans were up against with so many Chiefs fans in attendance and says the Titans had to feed off that for motivation.

“When you’re walking out and you see all the red shirts, you know that Chiefs fans travel well. We know we just had to use our energy as a team and make something happen,” Firkser adds.

The way things looked Sunday and with the secondary ticket market being what it is, it looks doubtful that the Titans will ever enjoy a home-field edge like they had 15 to 20 years ago.

But left tackle Taylor Lewan hasn’t abandoned the idea that Titans fans will come back – if the team lives up to its end of the bargain.

“If we win more games, then the Titans fans will come. It kind of is what it is. I think if we win games, then people will start to come,” Lewan points out.

“And if we consistently win games, Titans fans will go to away games and cheer us on. I’m not mad at anybody. We made this bed for ourselves, but we have a lot more to work on than to worry about other teams’ fans.”

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