NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Titans handled the NFL's first COVID-19 outbreak during the season by banding together and winning.
Now they've lost two straight, and not even their high-powered offense can cover up issues on defense and special teams.
Coach Mike Vrabel made clear Monday he wants his Titans sticking together. No finger-pointing. No griping.
"I have asked them that if somebody is complaining whether it's a teammate, whether it's a coach, that we stand up and and call them out however you want to do that," Vrabel said. "And we all need to be pulling on the rope in the same direction."
The Titans (5-2) hadn't lost consecutive games since last December. They responded to that adversity by reeling off three straight wins to reach the AFC championship game.
Vrabel said to blame him for the issues that cost the Titans in this skid, including a 31-20 loss to Cincinnati. The third-year coach said they all have to coach and play better and continue to improve at a crucial point in the season.
"Teams are going to go in one or two directions," Vrabel said. "They're going to keep getting better or they're not. And we were a team last year that continued to improve. And that's my charge now is to make sure that we're one of those teams that keeps getting better."
The Titans traded with the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday, bringing in defensive back and returner Desmond King to help both the special teams and the secondary.
The run game. The Titans piled up 218 yards and averaged 7.5 yards per carry. It's the second time this season they've hit 200 yards rushing in a game this season, and the 7.5-yard average tied for the fifth-highest team average in the NFL this season.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The defense. As much as Vrabel said the entire team must be better, it's the defense that is allowing opponents to convert 61.8% of third downs. They allowed Cincinnati and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow to convert 10 of 15 third downs, which Vrabel noted included five third-and-1s.