NASHVILLE – Titans coach Mike Vrabel held a press conference on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, one day after the team’s 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Titans return to action on Sunday when they face the Raiders in Oakland.
Here’s a look at some of the hot topics from today’s presser:
Showing Some Grit
The Titans won for the fourth time in 2019 when trailing or tied entering the fourth quarter. It is their highest number in a season since accomplishing the feat four times in 2009.
The Titans outscored the Colts 24-0 down the stretch after falling behind 17-7. The team rallied from nine down late to beat the Chiefs last month, and also came from behind to beat the Buccaneers.
Vrabel thinks the Titans have built a team with tough-minded players.
“I think first of all it is identifying players that aren’t front-runners by nature, to bring in here,” Vrabel said. “Those are the types of players you have to identify because some of those guys, it’s going to be hard to change their mentality. Then it’s our job here to instill that in them, understanding that games are going to be close, they are going to be tightly contested.”
Vrabel said players can’t have any panic and they need to “stay the course and be consistent.” He's liked what he’s seen from his players in tight games.
CC: Cornerback Concerns
Cornerback Malcolm Butler is on Injured Reserve and out for the season.
Cornerback LeShaun Sims missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.
Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson didn’t finish Sunday’s contest with what's been called a knee injury.
Tye Smith played well on Sunday while replacing Sims, while Kareem Orr stepped up when Jackson went down, joining cornerback Logan Ryan. Joshua Kalu also worked 20 snaps in the secondary.
Vrabel didn’t shed any light on Jackson’s injury (he had an ice pack on his foot at one point).
“We’ll talk about injuries … when we make a determination on their status on Wednesday,” Vrabel said.
But Vrabel's not expecting to get any sympathy cards. He said the Titans aren’t alone in dealing with injuries.
“Jon (Robinson) and I chuckled this morning, that there were 64 other (GMs and head coaches) doing what we were doing, going through the roster and seeing who might be available and might not,” Vrabel said. “Everybody deals with this stuff in December in the National Football League and we’ll find out who is available and we’ll get the guys that are as prepared as we possibly can for the game.”
Since taking over as the starter in Week 7, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has passed for 1,458 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions with a passer rating of 117.1.
Tannehill’s passer rating of 131.2 vs the Colts was his fifth 100-plus game in his six starts. Tannehill’s season passer rating of 113.9 ranks second in the NFL behind only Vikings QB Kirk Cousins (114.8).
“I think he is prepared,” Vrabel said of Tannehill. “I think he is comfortable running our offense. I think that him and (OC) Arthur Smith have a very good relationship. … It wasn’t perfect, but the communication is good between Arthur and Ryan and Ryan and the offense.”
Why Everybody Loves Raymond
Titans receiver Kalif Raymond is a great underdog story.
Raymond played in college at Holy Cross, and he previously spent time on NFL rosters of the Broncos, Jets and Giants before making Tennessee's roster.
Raymond spent the first part of this season in the team’s practice squad before getting and opportunity, and on Sunday he delivered with a 40-yard touchdown catch in the final minutes.
“That’s kind of who we want to be,” Vrabel said of Raymond. “He’s been cut three times, or whatever. It doesn’t matter where you went to college, it doesn’t matter how you got here. It only matters what you do when you are here. He has taken advantage of every opportunity.
“He comes in, he prepares, he studies, he has a great attitude, he is tough. So I am happy for him for yesterday. He made a huge play for us.”
Blocking Kicks and Taking Names
Defensive back Dane Cruikshank blocked a kick on Sunday after blocking an extra point earlier this season.
Defensive lineman Austin Johnson blocked a kick on Sunday as well.
Defensive back Joshua Kalu had a massive blocked kick against the Chiefs.
Vrabel said players are competing on every play and “now I hope that we expect to block one every week.”
Tannehill was sacked five times on Sunday, and six times in the contest.
Vrabel didn’t point fingers on Monday, saying simply the receivers, tight ends and running backs have to get open, the team has to protect better, and “we have to get rid of the football when it is not there.”
Vrabel said everyone is included when things go well, or poorly.
“Every sack is not going to be on the offensive line, and every sack is not going to be on the quarterback and every sack is not going to be because we didn’t get open,” Vrabel said.
Asked specifically about left tackle Taylor Lewan not being penalized two games in a row, Vrabel, with a slight grin, said: “I’m not going to celebrate that our left tackle didn’t have any penalties.”
Vrabel continued speaking about Lewan, and said “I appreciate his performance – there were some realty cool plays yesterday that he made. … He has been dialed in and he’s been locked in.”
Nice Form, Coach
Vrabel chucked the red challenge into the middle of the field on a challenge late in the contest, but it was his form that made for a nice gif.
Vrabel held his wrist in a position like he’d just shot a basketball after throwing the flag.
“That was the Steph Curry fadeaway,” Vrabel said of the NBA star when asked if he’s received any feedback. “Is it gaining steam? (Assistant) Stretch (John Streicher) and I have been working on that all summer.”
The Titans are 7-5, and one games behind the Texans in the AFC South.
The team is tied with the Steelers in the race for the final wild card spot.
Vrabel is focused on the Raiders and nothing else.
“That’s going to be the message: Seven (wins) won’t get you anything,” Vrabel said. “We just need to continue to do what we have been doing. Come in and prepare, get as healthy as we possibly can and move on.”
The Tennessee Titans take on the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13 of the 2019 season at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)