Vrabel sees close loss as chance for Titans to bond

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Mike Vrabel has recently been talking about close games a lot with his Titans.

After Tennessee pulled out three straight victories by three points apiece, the first-year coach and the Titans are coming off a one-point loss. The Titans had been a league-best 9-1 since the start of 2016 in games decided by three or fewer points.

Now Vrabel and the Titans get to see how they react to losing a close game — a 13-12 decision to Buffalo — and Vrabel believes the Titans will find out who they really are.

"It's not about what kind of team you are when you're winning, it's about when things go bad and you lose," Vrabel said Monday. "Can you stick together or does one side of the ball start looking at the other side? Do people start pointing fingers? That can't happen. I won't let it. I think that's where we have to start."

Even before Vrabel was hired in January, the Titans had been very good in close games. Then they added three more such wins before going to Buffalo.

"This one we wasn't able to pull it off," safety Kevin Byard said. "We win the close games it's like we're celebrating that. When we lose it, it's like the building's falling down and stuff like that. So at the end of the day, we just have to regroup and get back together ... correct the things we need to correct and get on the Ravens."

Well, the Titans have a few things to fix before hosting Baltimore (3-2) on Sunday in their lone home game in October.

The offense matched its season high in turnovers with two lost fumbles and an interception, and the Titans lost both of those games. Dropped passes also have been an issue. Nick Williams, the receiver beaten for position on the interception, also dropped a would-be touchdown pass as Tennessee settled for the first of two field goals in the fourth quarter.

The Titans went through a second game without scoring a touchdown, and they rank 29th in the NFL in scoring average at 17.4 points per game.

The loss of three-time Pro Bowl Delanie Walker, who broke his right ankle in the season-opening loss in Miami , has been very noticeable with tight ends not catching a single pass over the past two games. Jonnu Smith dropped a pass in Tennessee's overtime win against Philadelphia but didn't catch the two passes thrown to him in Buffalo. Luke Stocker didn't catch the one thrown to him.

Asked if the Titans need more from their tight ends, Vrabel said they need more from everybody, including himself.

"The only two guys we didn't need more from (Sunday) were the kicker and the punter," Vrabel said. "They did their job."

Later Monday, the Titans promoted tight end Anthony Firkser from the practice squad.

Tennessee is tied for fourth in scoring defense, giving up just one fewer point (86) than the offense has scored (87). But the Titans, who ranked fifth against the run last season, are 26th in that category after giving up 144 yards to the Bills.

"We're 3-2," Byard said. "We're still ahead of the division. We're still in a good position. We have to play better of course, but there's still a lot of optimism left in this locker room."

Notes: To make room for Firkser, the Titans waived RB Dalyn Dawkins.


Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/teresamwalker


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