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VOL. 45 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 17, 2021

In reversal of 2020, Titans must ride defense in final four games

By Terry McCormick

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The Tennessee Titans are going to have to win games with the defense for the foreseeable future.

Yes, A.J. Brown should be back at some point to help boost the offense. And there is speculation that Derrick Henry could return in January.

But based on what this team is now and how it has to play until Brown and Henry are back, the defense looks to be the key element.

The Titans are 3-2 since losing Henry in the first quarter of a 34-31 win, having defeated the Rams, Saints and Jaguars. In those three victories, the Titans had seven takeaways and turned the ball over once.

In the two losses, Tennessee was far too generous, giving the ball up nine times and taking it away only once, and that coming in garbage time with a crazy sequence in which the Titans fumbled the ball, the Texans recovered and fumbled it back to the Titans while returning it.

So, as much as the Titans would like to keep hanging their hat on the running game or rediscover an explosive passing attack rooted in play-action, the truth is the defense and turnovers are the key.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel isn’t afraid to admit that.

“There’s no better indicator of success in this league than turnover margin,” he says. “You say what you want. Look it up over 20 years. It’s real critical that we realize that that’s how we have to play.

Safety Kevin Byard, who has had his share of takeaways over the years, agrees that the defense has to take advantage of opposing offenses to help create positive situations for the offense and the team in general.

“That’s the type of team we want to be,” he says. “I mean, I know you guys heard (Mike) Vrabel talk about it before. We want to be the good team, the great team that takes advantage of other teams’ poor football, so I think we did that today.”

Defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons says Sunday’s effort against Jacksonville needs to be the standard to which the defense strives for each week.

“Our job is to do what we did today. We want to try to go get a shutout no matter who’s on the field on offense,” Simmons says. “The only thing we can worry about is stopping the run, affecting the quarterback and getting turnovers, and I think that’s just our motto and our identity, stopping the run, affecting the quarterback and getting turnovers.”

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