NASHVILLE – Titans coach Mike Vrabel held a press conference on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, one day after the team’s 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Next up for the Titans is a game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here’s a look at some of the hot topics:
First Half Issues
The Titans were held scoreless in the first half on Sunday, and it marked the fourth time that’s happened in the first half of a game this season.
Speaking specifically about the 17-0 deficit against the Panthers, Vrabel said the Titans “have to not stall in the red zone” in addition to not committing penalties that put the team in longer down-and-distance situations. The Titans also missed two field goals in the first half.
“Those are a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” Vrabel said. “Just not hurting ourselves, not killing ourselves.”
Why Not More Derrick Henry?
Titans running back Derrick Henry finished the contest with 63 yards on 13 carries, and an eight-yard touchdown run. Henry also scored on a 23-yard screen pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Henry had just four yards on two carries at the half, however.
“He is a very large part (of our plan),” Vrabel said of Henry. “Once we were able to stay on track like we were in the second half, he was a large part of it.”
Vrabel said the penalties in the first half, and the team’s failures to sustain drives, made running Henry more difficult.
“We had 11 plays out of the first 21 plays that were either 1st and 15, 2nd and 10 plus, 3rd and long,” Vrabel said. “So those are tough spots to be in when you want to have an identity to run the football. … When we can stay on track … you can see there was some successful and good football.”
Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler suffered a wrist injury during Sunday’s loss and did not return.
It sounds like he might not return for the Titans this season.
Butler won’t play this week against the Chiefs, and Vrabel said his outlook is “not good.”
“That’s a possibility,” Vrabel said when asked if Butler might not play again this season. “We’ll let you know when we find out more.”
Coaches and Players
Vrabel was asked to evaluate the job offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has done this season.
The Titans are currently ranked 26th in the NFL on offense.
Vrabel said everyone needs to be better.
“I think the value on all of our jobs is below average, because we are 4 and 5,” Vrabel said. “So we haven’t played well enough, and we haven’t coached well enough -- that’s where I value all of our efforts, starting with me.”
Vrabel also hesitated to heap praise on individual players and said no one should be casting blame.
“We talk to them about not looking around and saying, 'Whose fault is that?,'” Vrabel said. “It’s everybody’s fault. No one has played good enough for us to remain consistent. … No one is playing well enough, that’s how I look at it. I would hate to have somebody walk in here today and say, 'I did my job.’ That would be the absolute worst attitude that we could possibly have. I don’t want that attitude.
“When you lose, everyone can do a little bit more. Everyone can coach better, everyone can play better. And everyone has to do that for us to win.”
Titans kicker Ryan Succop missed all three of his field goal attempts on Sunday, and the team is now just 7-of-15 kicking field goals this year.
“And we missed an extra point, too,” Vrabel said, referring to a miss by Cody Parkey. “So we’ve missed nine kicks.”
Vrabel said the misses are deflating. Cairo Santos (4-9), Parkey (3-3 FGs) and Succop (0-3) have all handled field goal duties this season.
“The expectation is that they make the kicks,” Vrabel said. “Maybe not the 56-yarder (from Succop) – we can’t take the sack. But make the kicks.”
What About Jurrell?
Titans defensive line Jurrell Casey was held out of Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.
Vrabel is hopeful Casey will be able to return at some point.
“We are continuing to evaluate him and continue to try and get him back as soon as we can,” Vrabel said. “I know that Jurrell wants nothing more than to be able to play football for this team, for these guys. … I am very proud of his effort, not only on the field, but in the classroom and in the meeting rooms and also trying to get back from what he is dealing with.”
Next Up: Chiefs
The Chiefs are 6-3, and they’re coming off a 26-23 win over the Vikings.
At this point, there’s some uncertainly who will play quarterback for Kansas City vs the Titans. Starter Patrick Mahomes has missed two straight games with an injury, and Matt Moore has filled in.
“I think you always plan for it to be the starter, kind of track his health,” Vrabel said of preparing for Kansas City's QB. “They have a lot of weapons, and plenty of speed that we are going to have to defend in the secondary. They have a very good tight end (Travis Kelce), we know what kind of runner (LeSean) McCoy is and how he can impact the game.
“So it will be important regardless of who plays quarterback that we understand the weapons and the talent and the skill set that they have offensively as well as what they are trying to do defensively.”
The Tennessee Titans take on the Carolina Panthers in Week 9 of the 2019 season at Bank of America Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)