NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have a serious problem coming out of halftime.
Their offense simply can't stay on the field.
The Titans have started the third quarter 10 times by going three-and-out and rank last in the NFL in going three-and-out 46 times.
Yet they still hold a two-game lead in the AFC South at 7-6 despite being outscored 147-70 after halftime.
Strangely, Tennessee has opened games scoring touchdowns on six possessions. That's the best this franchise has started games like that since 2001, and the Titans are among the NFL's best in that category. Yet the Titans have been shut out six times in the third quarter and seven times in the fourth quarter.
Coach Mike Vrabel said Wednesday the Titans have to go back to fundamentals.
“Taking care of the football, really just striving to keep this rhythm and the flow that’s been there at times,” Vrabel said. "And again, not having this rollercoaster of having a good drive or then doing something that affects that and then really letting it affect the rest of the game.”
It’s an issue they need to fix as they prepare to visit the Chargers (7-6) on Sunday trying to hold, or improve, their two-game lead atop the AFC South with four games to play.
Offensive coordinator Todd Downing's play-call sheet often seemingly goes Derrick Henry run, run, pass and punt. They truly have been their own worst enemy at times with too many penalties ranging from too many men, ineligible receiver downfield and offensive holding.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill noted the issue in the 36-22 loss to Jacksonville was too many turnovers. They trailed 27-14 by the time the Titans touched the ball for the first time in the third quarter. That drive was brief with a Henry 1-yard run wiped out by a crack-back block penalty on Geoff Swaim.
Henry ran again for a yard on first-and-22. Tannehill was sacked for a 6-yard loss and Tannehill's screen to Chig Okonkwo on third-and-27 was smothered for a 3-yard loss before yet another punt.
“If it’s good, you like to build on it," Tannehill said. "And if it’s bad, you have to be able to take a step back and wash it away. You know, I think that’s what it comes down to. There's going to be good plays, there’s going to be bad plays within a drive or a series. Sometimes one play can stop a drive, you know what I mean?”
The Chargers are another team with second-half issues. The Chargers have been outscored 168-96 after halftime and were outscored 10-6 in holding off Miami for a 23-17 win last weekend.
The Titans have their own issues to fix first. Not turning the ball over would help. They've turned the ball over five times in the second half this season, including one to open their first drive of the fourth quarter in last week's loss.
“It’s frustrating," wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine said. "You always want to be able to go out there and execute, you know, the football plan the way that we want to. But all I can say it’s really just one thing. We just got to execute, and that’s really all it is.”
NOTES: The Titans got sack leader Denico Autry back on the practice field in a limited fashion Wednesday. He has missed three straight games with an injured left knee. They also activated the 21-day return to practice window for LB Zach Cunningham who has missed five games since being placed on injured reserve with an injured elbow. ... WR Treylon Burks (concussion protocol), CB Kristian Fulton (groin) and WR Robert Woods (illness) did not practice. ... Rookie CB Trey Avery returned to practice and was limited in the concussion protocol. ... They also signed RB Jonathan Ward to the practice squad.
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