Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans ...

The Titans know how it was supposed to end, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. They just couldn’t make it happen. "It's almost like dj vu, saying the same thing every year," safety Michael Griffin said. "It's really getting old."

An F for the pass defense, and not many marks that are a lot better in Wyatt’s report card.

For the second consecutive game, free safety Griffin made key mistakes that were a vital ingredients in the Titans’ struggles, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Five offensive linemen committed six penalties for the Titans, says Glennon.

Derek Hagan couldn’t really enjoy what might have been a game-winning touchdown catch, says Glennon.

The Titans struggled to find an offensive flow, again, says David Climer of The Tennessean.

There were some positives on a negative day, says David Boclair of the Nashville Post.

"All that’s left is to find out whether rookie Zach Mettenberger can become a star on the rise," writes Don Banks of Sports Illustrated. "The second half of the season is just a game away in Tennessee, and Mettenberger should be front and center for most of November and December."

Washington perspective from my colleague John Keim.
SAN DIEGO -- Rookie kicker Cairo Santos didn’t just vindicate himself by making a 48-yard field goal in the final seconds to lift the Kansas City Chiefs to a 23-20 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

He also rewarded the Chiefs for their belief in him. The Chiefs decision to keep Santos, who was undrafted, instead of veteran Ryan Succop looked like a mistake early in the season. Santos missed two of his first four field goal attempts while Succop, now with the Tennessee Titans, made all four of his in his new team’s season-opening win over the Chiefs.

[+] EnlargeChiefs
AP Photo/Denis PoroyAfter a rough start to his rookie season, Cairo Santos (5) has now made six straight field goal attempts.
But general manager John Dorsey never wavered.

"What he was in college was a model of consistency," Dorsey said. "He set the NCAA record for consecutive field goals. He’s always been mentally tough. You go back and study the kickers. All the great ones started slow in their careers.

"He’s young. He had to grow and that’s what he’s doing. This kick showed it."

Santos’ streak of 26 successful field goals while in college at Tulane is actually the second-longest in NCAA history but that’s a minor point. The bigger picture is that Santos, who made all three of his field goal tries on Sunday, is on a roll. He has made six straight field goal attempts.

He also succeeded where Succop failed last year, in the final moments of a game at Qualcomm Stadium. Succop missed a 41-yard field goal attempt that would have broken a tie. Instead, that game went to overtime and the Chiefs lost.

That bit of history wasn’t lost on Santos. He said he watched that game last season on TV.

"I had a couple of (successful) kicks in a row now to build my confidence," he said when asked how he avoided the same San Diego fate as Succop. "This is how I’ve been kicking in training camp and the preseason."

The Chiefs' unwavering belief in Santos may have pulled him through his slump. As Dorsey indicated, it’s not uncommon for established kickers to have a similar rough patch at some point early in their careers.

San Diego’s Nick Novak once kicked for the Chiefs, who cut him after a prolonged slump. He’s now made a franchise-record 31 straight field goals.

"The coaches and my teammates helped me a lot, telling me that I belong and that’s why I’m here," Santos said. "Kickers go through those kind of hiccups.

"When I was going through the struggles, I got calls from guys like Robbie Gould. He was kind enough to give me a call out of nowhere and just shared he started his rookie season 3-for-6 and ended up having an OK year and look at the career he’s had. Kickers go through that."
WASHINGTON –- It was striking in the Tennessee Titans' 19-17 loss in Landover, Maryland, how much the Titans free-agent class of 2014 qualified as bit players.

Right tackle Michael Oher is a full-time starter, and he played all 56 offensive snaps.

Wesley Woodyard is a defensive captain, but he played only 70 percent.

Three more really had little opportunity to contribute.

Outside linebacker Shaun Phillips played 44 percent of the defensive snaps. Defensive lineman Al Woods played 11 (17 percent). And running back Dexter McCluster, who was supposed to be a mismatch nightmare and an X factor, played six snaps (11 percent).

It was less in this game than I would have expected from that group. I will look soon at how much they have played through all seven games.

A look at playing time for the Titans against Washington:

Offense, 56 snaps

LT Taylor Lewan, 56
LG Andy Levitre, 56
C Brian Schwenke, 56
RG Chance Warmack, 56
RT Michael Oher, 56
QB Charlie Whitehurst, 56

WR Justin Hunter, 54
TE Delanie Walker, 49
WR Kendall Wright, 41
WR Nate Washington, 39
RB Bishop Sankey, 35
RB Leon Washington, 15
FB Jackie Battle, 9
TE Brett Brackett, 9
TE Chase Coffman, 8
WR Derek Hagan, 7
RB Dexter McCluster, 6
G Chris Spencer, 5
FB Karl Klug, 3

Defense, 63 snaps

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 63
S Michael Griffin, 63
CB Jason McCourty, 63

OLB Derrick Morgan, 60
DL Jurrell Casey, 59
ILB Avery Williamson, 56
S George Wilson, 54
DE Mike Martin, 49
ILB Wesley Woodyard, 44
OLB Kamerion Wimbley, 35
CB Marqueston Huff, 34
DT Sammie Hill, 28
OLB Shaun Phillips, 28
SS Daimion Stafford, 27
DL Karl Klug, 11
DL Al Woods, 11
DL DaQuan Jones, 5
OLB Quentin Groves, 3

Huff led special teamers by playing 23 snaps, 85 percent of the special teams work.
LANDOVER, Md. -- Who had Taylor Lewan in the pool?

The pool picking the only Titans offensive linemen of the team's top six who would come out of the game against Washington without a penalty.

Kudos to the rookie Lewan for playing his first two NFL games without drawing a flag. He's got a reputation as a hot head and he drew a pair of 15-yard penalties in very limited part-time work before Michael Roos had season-ending knee surgery.

Since then, Lewan's been clean.

After the Titans 19-17 loss to Washington, His linemates can make no such claim.
  • Brian Schwenke's illegal use of the hands produced a second-and-15. The Titans ended up punting.
  • Chance Warmack's holding resulted in a second-and-13. The drive ended in a punt.
  • Chris Spencer's holding resulted in a first-and-20, leading to an interception.
  • Michael Oher's false start produced a first-and-15, which led to a second-and-15, which led to ...
  • Andy Levitre's hold led to a second-and-25, leading to a punt.
  • Schewnke's second illegal use of the hands led to a first-and-20, leading to a punt.

“We're not able to overcome the first-and-20 consistently,” quarterback Charlie Whitehurst said. “And most teams aren't.”

The Titans committed 11 penalties for 96 yards. Six of them for 55 yards came from the offensive line, which isn't coming close to living up to it's collective pedigree or salary.

“The why is the biggest question,” Schwenke said. “If I knew why, I don't think we'd be having this conversation, it's as simple as that.

“We've got to work every week and we work to get better and we're focused going into every game and we feel confident going into every game. Why is the biggest question for me too.”

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Tennessee Titans find new and creative mistakes each week to help lose a game, or at least give it a good shot.

They create close games, and close games are usually compelling. But there is nothing gripping about Tennessee.

Sunday's 19-17 loss to the Washington Redskins looked to be crafted on an assembly line of errors.

Not everyone lingers in the locker room, and when you want to run down this many gaffes, getting a comment from everyone isn't possible.

McCourty's pass interference penalty: On a third-and-2 from the Tennessee 29 with 43 second left, Jason McCourty ran up the left side and into the end zone with DeSean Jackson, drawing a flag for pass interference.

It moved Washington 22 yards and ensured Kai Forbath would have a chip shot field-goal attempt to win it.

"I'm not going to dispute it," McCourty said. "I've got to go and make the play and I didn't do that. ... We had some hand fighting and I probably tugged him a little bit and they threw the flag."

In the first quarter, McCourty dropped a simple interception of a Kirk Cousins pass. He was bailed out on the next play, as Avery Williamson caught a Cousins fumble.

Schwenke's two hands to the face penalties: The one in the first quarter turned a second-and-5 into a second-and-15 and led to a punt. Brian Schwenke's second was even more costly.

The Titans had a one-point lead and the ball at their 33. His illegal use of the hands put them in first-and-20 and three runs milked the clock but led to a punt.

"I feel like I lost us the game with that penalty," Schwenke said. "I have no doubt what if we're still first-and-10 we could have run the ball and run the clock out. If that penalty doesn't happen I feel as if we would have taken a knee and ended the game."

Hands to the face are a point of emphasis this season, and Schwenke said he rerouted quickly but that it now gets called.

"It wasn't like I was trying to tear his helmet off or anything," Schwenke said.

Griffin's poor angle on Garcon: Colt McCoy's first pass after entering the game for Washington came on his team's second play in the third quarter. He threw the ball about 5 yards to Pierre Garcon on the left side. Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson missed the tackle and hardly slowed him.

Still, free safety Michael Griffin had a chance to catch Garcon on the boundary and shove him out of bounds. He took a poor route, reminding us how he can struggle with the geometry of the secondary on his worst plays, and Garcon dashed past him for a 70-yard score.

"When it came down to it I was trying to cut off the middle of the field because I was the only person, last man," Griffin said. "He had the whole field to work with. I tried to cut it off and as I cut it off I thought I had enough room to the sideline to be able to push him out, he still had a little more room to squeeze through there to get by me. It was just a great play by a good player."

It seems to me Griffin should have eliminated the possibility that Garcon could stay on the sideline. Cutting toward the middle would have slowed him down at least a bit and might have created a chance for someone else to get involved.

Earlier, Griffin was beat on a 50-yard catch-and-run by tight end Niles Paul, in a play similar to one that Griffin bemoaned his role in a week earlier against the Jacksonville Jaguars' Clay Harbor.

"I've got to be better with my eyes when it comes to the tight end," he said.

Also on the list: A terrible drop by Justin Hunter, a muffed punt that was a giveaway by Dexter McCluster, a wishful and failed challenge by Ken Whisenhunt, an overthrow-turned-interception by Charlie Whitehurst.

The Titans' imprecise play simply left the team with "too much to overcome," Whisenhunt said.

Every week we see the mistakes, every week we hear the refrain about the need to get better and clean things up. Then the next week we see more of the same.

Where is the reason to expect better? I can't find it. The competition is actually about to improve.

"We've got to figure this out, we got to figure this out," Griffin said. "I'm not saying we're out of the playoff hunt. But we are almost out of that even coming out of our mouths. Right now we put ourselves in a situation where we're going to have to go out on the road [and get results].

"It's going to be a long November and a long December if we don't change, if we don't get this win coming up next week."

I'm not sure that a win over the Houston Texans at LP Field in the Titans' last October game is going to have that big a bearing on the overall fortune of Tennessee.

Redskins reporter John Keim's game ball goes to quarterback Colt McCoy, who drove Washington 76 yards in the final minutes for the winning field goal. Titans receiver Kendall Wright gets the honor from Paul Kuharsky.
LANDOVER, Md. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Tennessee Titans' 19-17 loss to Washington:

Among the worst: A win over the Jaguars last week saved the Titans from a complete drop into the very bottom group of teams in the NFL.

But they deserve their place there now.

The Titans enabled Washington to collect its second win of the season on the same day the Browns, who stormed back for a historic win over the Titans, lost to Jacksonville. (Not that I believe in the transitive value of such things. The Titans lost to Cleveland and beat Jacksonville, and nothing changes head-to-head results.)

“The last three games, it came down to the last couple of seconds,” safety Michael Griffin said. “Do I think we belong there [grouped with those teams]? Not exactly.

"We hung in there with a lot of teams, we’re just not capitalizing when we have opportunities to capitalize. We had opportunities to put teams away, we’re not putting teams away. We’re hurting ourselves. We keep saying the same thing every week. One day it’s going to have to turn into actions outside of words.”

Sorry, Grif, at 2-5 the Titans absolutely deserve to be grouped with those teams as well as the Jets, the Buccaneers and the Raiders as the worst the NFL has to offer.

Not talking: Outspoken safety Bernard Pollard declined to talk to reporters after a 41-17 loss in Indianapolis (which was before he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury).

After this one, the team’s most outspoken player on offense -- who also ranks as the team’s most productive player -- declined to speak.

Tight end Delanie Walker is entitled to a pass, for sure.

The Titans' struggles are enough to quiet two talkative guys and leave them unable to gather themselves enough to put bad results into perspective in short order.

Back in the lineup: After sitting out two games with a bruised right thumb suffered against Cleveland, Jake Locker should be in line to return against Houston next Sunday at LP Field.

“I would expect him to be able to go next week,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “But until we go out and practice, I don’t know that for sure.”

Pictures: Check out my Instagram account for some postgame video and pictures, including Brian Schwenke lamenting his two penalties for hands to the face.

Rapid Reaction: Tennessee Titans

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Tennessee Titans' 19-17 loss to Washington at FedExField.

What it means: The Titans buckled late and allowed Washington a game-winning field goal drive at the end to drop to 2-5 on the season. Tennessee cornerback Jason McCourty was flagged for pass interference on a 29-yard throw into the end zone from Colt McCoy intended for DeSean Jackson. It set up Kai Forbath for a 22-yard kick that sealed it on the final play.

Continued issues: Rookie left tackle Taylor Lewan was the only Tennessee offensive lineman who didn’t draw a penalty. Even the team’s sixth offensive lineman, Chris Spencer, who played sparingly as an eligible extra, was called for a hold. The line hardly did enough to pace the Titans to a win.

Not enough: Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst started his third game of the season for the injured Jake Locker and looked gun shy and unsteady as the Titans got little going on offense. He dealt with too much pressure but also struggled to make quick decisions that got the ball out of his hand and gave players more chances to make plays. He made a big play in the fourth quarter on play-action, lofting a 38-yard touchdown to Derek Hagan that put the Titans ahead with 7:41 remaining, but it didn't stand up. Whitehurst wound up 17-of-26 for 160 yards, two touchdowns, a pick and a sack.

Game ball: Receiver Kendall Wright had six catches for 68 yards, including a 14-yard second-quarter touchdown in which he made a nifty move just before the goal line to evade defenders. On an unimpressive offensive day, he did the most.

What’s next: The Titans host the Houston Texans at LP Field before reaching the season’s halfway point and their bye.

Colt McCoy in for Kirk Cousins at QB

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
AP Photo/Mark E. TenallyKirk Cousins was benched Sunday after committing two turnovers in the first half against Tennessee.

LANDOVER, Md. -- Colt McCoy replaced Kirk Cousins at quarterback for the Washington Redskins' opening possession of the second half against the Tennessee Titans.

On McCoy's second play from scrimmage -- and his first pass attempt -- he threw a short pass to Pierre Garcon that the receiver turned into a 70-yard touchdown.

Washington took a 13-10 lead with the play.

It was the longest TD pass of McCoy's career and his first scoring toss in the NFL since December 2012 for Cleveland.

Cousins had a fumble and interception in the first half, raising his giveaway total to 11 this season. He was 10 of 16 for 139 yards in the half.

Cousins has been starting for Washington while Robert Griffin III is sidelined with a dislocated left ankle.

(Read full post)

LANDOVER, Md. -- Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker isn’t playing for the second week in a row with a bruised right thumb and Charlie Whitehurst will start at quarterback against Washington.

It’s the third missed start in seven games for Locker, who also missed a game with a strained right wrist.

Locker has now missed 17 of 39 games over the last three years.

Whitehurst will be backed up by rookie Zach Mettenberger.

Also out for the Titans is defensive end Ropati Pitoitua, who broke a finger last week.

Tennessee declared running back Shonn Greene (hamstring), tight end Taylor Thompson (knee) and cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (knee) out on Saturday.

Also out are new offensive tackle Will Svitek and outside linebacker Akeem Ayers.
Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans ...

Ken Whisenhunt’s culture change for the Titans is a work in progress, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

To which I say: Whisenhunt says you can’t put a schedule on it, but number me among those who expected more, sooner. This team is loaded with guys who join their coach in talking about the process but seem too content with it taking time and not in possession of enough of a sense of urgency regarding right now.

Five keys for the Titans to beat Washington, from Wyatt.

Michael Griffin’s ability to help the Titans get a handle on Washington receiver DeSean Jackson will be one of the big matchups of the game, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Three reasons the Titans can win and three reasons they can lose from David Boclair of the Nashville Post. He sees a low-scoring, close game with a Washington win.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Greetings, readers.

Thank you for sending questions to the Titans mailbag, and thank you for reading the Titans mailbag.

We appreciate your continued support in these trying times.

Paul Kuharsky: They can play better defense with that they've got, but they don't have enough. They've got to have a much better rush off the edge from an outside linebacker. That's a major hole and I don't think it's going to be filled with what they currently have.

Paul Kuharsky: It will change Oct. 26 when they host Houston and will wear navy. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean wrote about why they've been in white jerseys every game so far. They will be in white again on Sunday.

Paul Kuharsky: Nope.

Paul Kuharsky: I hope not. If they are done with Jake Locker, they should be done with him, and I expect they will be done with him. It would be potentially awkward for a failed, demoted guy to be around. Far more important than that is that he has not been good enough as "the guy" when he gets all the practice work. You need the backup to be able to enter and play well enough to win with none of the practice work. There is no reason to believe he can be that guy for this team.

Paul Kuharsky: Not close to now. A year from now, if he's not playing far better than this, you can more reasonably ask the question. Generally, unless a guy is a disaster, you need a three-year sample before ruling someone a bust.

Paul Kuharsky: No. They need to motion Dexter McCluster from the backfield to a receiving spot more often, I think. Only 17 of his 109 snaps have come when he's been in the slot or wide. And he's only caught 11 passes. I thought they were going to get him in space and throw to him.

Paul Kuharsky: George was a very big workhorse. There are fewer and fewer guys who will be given such a workload in the NFL. And at 5-foot-9 and 209 pounds, Bishop Sankey isn't big enough or strong enough to be a guy like that. I think he will be a dependable back, but I wouldn't invoke George's name.

Paul Kuharsky: It is not such a magical sack. It lives in the clouds of something I like to call the etherwebs. Where can I get such a sack? I'd be willing to move the mailbag to such a sack. And I'd love to give them as Christmas presents. 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Last Friday I wrote that the Tennessee Titans shouldn't play Jake Locker against the Jaguars, even if he could go, after missing practices with his bruised thumb.

He ultimately couldn't grip the ball well enough and didn't play.

This week he was limited, not out. But we don't know if he did a thing with the full offense or merely worked in the quarterback period before practice expanded.

My standard for Locker remains the same. If he doesn't get all the preparation work, or the bulk of it, he shouldn't play. I expect Charlie Whitehurst received more than half the most meaningful work, probably much more.

I think Whitehurst should start and I think he will.

Other injuries: Tight end Taylor Thompson (knee), cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (knee) and running back Shonn Greene (hamstring) are doubtful. Greene isn't playing and I don't expect the other two to play, either.

Defensive end Ropati Pitoitua (finger) is questionable but should play if they find a cast in which he's comfortable. Safety George Wilson (calf) is probable and will play.