Dec 20, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) looks on during warmups before the game against the Detroit Lions at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Titans activate K Stephen Gostkowski from COVID list

The Tennessee Titans activated kicker Stephen Gostkowski from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday.

Gostkowski, 36, missed the regular-season finale at Houston but is eligible to play in Sunday’s wild-card game against the visiting Baltimore Ravens.

The four-time Pro Bowl selection made 18 of 26 field goals and 46 of 48 extra-point attempts in 15 games in 2020, his first season with the Titans after 14 years with the New England Patriots.

The three-time Super Bowl winner is the second-leading scorer in NFL postseason history with 205 points, trailing Adam Vinatieri (238).

Sam Sloman replaced Gostkowski in Week 17 and kicked the game-winning, 37-yard field goal as time expired in a 41-38 victory against the Texans. The clutch kick bounced off the upright and clinched the AFC South title for the Titans.

Also Thursday, Tennessee placed rookie offensive lineman Aaron Brewer on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Undrafted out of Texas State, Brewer has played in 12 games with one start this season.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs for a first down during the second half against the Detroit Lions at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Titans seeking to remain on playoff path against Texans

There were moments this season when Tennessee played with such force and vigor that a playoff berth seemed all but assured, something akin to a foregone conclusion given their offensive weapons.

But with five teams vying for four AFC playoff spots all sporting the same record, there are no guarantees for the Titans (10-5) on Sunday when they face the host Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.

“I think your approach is that you just have to do things that help you win,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of the pending sense of urgency. “You have to play complementary. You’ve got to take care of the football. You’ve got to try to get some turnovers, be sound in the kicking game. Not trying to do too much but go out and make plays and make plays to win the football game.”

The Titans rank third in the NFL in points (450) and fifth in yards (5,851) behind the imposing collective of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Derrick Henry and receivers A.J. Brown and Corey Davis.

Tannehill ranks fourth in passer rating (106.7) and seventh in touchdowns (32) while Henry is threatening to claim a second consecutive triple crown for running backs by pacing the league in attempts (344) and yards (1,777) while sitting one touchdown shy of co-leaders Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara (with 16 apiece).

Brown and Davis both have 60 receptions for 900-plus yards while Davis is tied for sixth in the league with 10 receiving touchdowns.

Yet Tennessee has been undone by its defense, which ranks 29th in yards allowed, and is now in need of relying on past playoff experience to navigate the potential landmines in Houston. In theory, the run to the AFC Championship Game last season should serve the Titans well on Sunday, but in a season where guarantees have been few and far between, nothing is certain.

“I don’t know that,” Vrabel said. “We’ve got to focus on the Texans and the challenges that they present and our ability to prepare. I think you try to take from the games that you’ve played and past experiences and try not to think that it’s going to guarantee success because it doesn’t. Each week and each play doesn’t mean anything about the next one. It’s just about finding a way to get there.”

The Texans (4-11) are aiming to get Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson through the season finale. Watson has taken his lumps in recent weeks yet has remained a dynamic force. But the blow he took to his throwing arm in the fourth quarter last Sunday against the Bengals was worrisome enough to lead some to suggest that Watson should sit and call it a season Sunday.

Watson has made it clear, however, that if he is healthy he will play. And by all accounts, he will.

“As far as I know, he’s doing pretty good,” Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel said. “I haven’t heard that he’s not doing well, and so since I feel like he’s doing good, I hope he does good on Sunday, too.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) runs with the ball for a touchdown during the first half against the Detroit Lions at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Tannehill leads Titans to rout of Lions

Ryan Tannehill passed for three touchdowns and rushed for two more and the Tennessee Titans overwhelmed the Detroit Lions 46-25 in Nashville on Sunday.

Tannehill completed 21 of 27 passes for 273 yards and rushed for 21 yards on three carries. Derrick Henry rushed for 147 yards and one score on 24 carries as the Titans (10-4) remained tied for first in the AFC South Division with Indianapolis. Corey Davis caught four passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.

D’Andre Swift rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, and Matthew Stafford passed for 252 yards and a touchdown for the Lions (5-9). Marvin Jones III caught 10 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown.

Matt Prater’s 53-yard field goal with 4:09 left in the third quarter cut Tennessee’s nine-point halftime lead to 24-18. Prater’s 58th career field goal of 50 or more yards tied Sebastian Jankowski for the most in NFL history.

The Titans scored during the first minute of the fourth quarter. Tannehill completed an 83-yard drive with a 3-yard run. Henry scored on a 2-point conversion to make it 32-18. Tannehill hooked up with A.J. Brown on a 2-yard scoring pass with nine minutes left.

Swift scored from 7 yards out after Chase Daniel replaced Stafford at quarterback. Tannehill’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Darrynton Evans completed the scoring.

Tennessee scored touchdowns on its first three possessions while establishing a 24-15 halftime lead.

The Titans drove 75 yards on 12 plays to open the scoring. Henry finished it off with a 3-yard run.

Detroit answered with a 75-yard drive of its own, capped by Stafford’s 2-yard pass to Jones.

Tannehill needed only one play to get those points back. He found Davis behind the defense on a 75-yard scoring strike.

Tannehill used his legs to score the next touchdown early in the second quarter. He faked a handoff and then cut left on a 17-yard scamper.

Swift fumbled trying to score and the Titans recovered. The Lions defense then put two points on the board as Romeo Okwara sacked Tannehill in the end zone.

Swift scored on the Lions’ subsequent possession on a 2-yard run.

Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 38-yard field goal for Tennessee on the final play of the half.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA;  Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs for a touchdown past Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Sidney Jones (35) during the second quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Henry runs wild as Titans rout Jaguars

Derrick Henry rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries to lead the visiting Tennessee Titans to a 31-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

The Titans (9-4) maintained their lead in the AFC South, beating the Jaguars (1-12) for the seventh time in their past eight meetings, and clinched their fifth consecutive winning season.

Henry, who has put up several prolific rushing performances throughout his career against the Jaguars, surpassed 100 rushing yards in a game at Jacksonville for the first time.

Ryan Tannehill completed 19 of 24 passes for 212 yards and threw two touchdowns to finish with a 131.2 passer rating.

Tannehill’s first touchdown — a 37-yard pass to A.J. Brown in the first quarter — came on a flea-flicker where Henry pitched the ball back to him. Brown caught seven passes for 112 yards on nine targets and Geoff Swaim caught Tannehill’s other touchdown toss.

Defensive tackle Doug Costin recovered a fumble by Corey Davis that led to a 53-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas cutting Tennessee’s lead to 7-3 with 3:32 left in the second quarter.

But the Titans answered with a five-play, 75-yard drive. Each play was a run by Henry, capped by a 36-yard touchdown scamper with 44 seconds left in the first half.

Trailing 31-3 with 8:48 left in the third quarter, the Jaguars benched quarterback Mike Glennon (13 for 23, 85 yards, 46.5 passer rating) after he was intercepted by Malcolm Butler, and replaced him with Gardner Minshew II.

Playing for the first time since Week 7 against the Chargers, Minshew directed an 11-play, 60-yard touchdown drive capped by his 5-yard toss to Keelan Cole.

After the Jaguars forced a punt on the ensuing drive, Minshew led a 74-yard march into the Titans’ red zone on six plays. But Minshew threw four consecutive incompletions, resulting in a loss on downs.

Minshew completed 18 of 31 passes for 178 yards and finished with an 85.1 passer rating.

Jaguars running back James Robinson finished with 67 yards on 12 carries to become the first undrafted rookie in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards rushing through the first 14 weeks of a season.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) is tackled by Cleveland Browns cornerback Terrance Mitchell (39) after a short gain during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Titans seek rebound, and to keep Jaguars reeling

On paper, it looks like the Tennessee Titans have the ideal foil for a bounce-back performance in Week 14.

Needing a win to maintain its share of first place in the AFC South with Indianapolis, Tennessee (8-4) gets a trip to division rival Jacksonville.

At 1-11, the Jaguars would be on the clock for next spring’s NFL draft were it not for the pristine incompetence of the winless New York Jets.

But Titans coach Mike Vrabel invokes coach-speak when discussing Jacksonville, even though it’s on an 11-game losing streak since upsetting the Colts in Week 1.

After all, the Jaguars came within a late interception of perhaps beating Tennessee in Week 2, and have suffered five other one-possession losses.

“It’s the same challenge that it is every week — it’s a new opponent,” Vrabel said. “They’ll probably look a little different than the last time we played them. I know it sounds like a broken record, but if you don’t play good in this league, you’re going to lose.”

Which the Titans did last week, and decisively. The 41-35 final score in a loss to Cleveland was actually very flattering for Tennessee. The Browns led 38-7 at halftime, and only two touchdowns in the last 90 seconds made the final margin respectable.

A defense that showed signs of improvement in road wins over Baltimore and Indianapolis regressed badly. Cleveland scored on all six first-half possessions as Baker Mayfield made the Titans look like one of the Big 12 defenses he used to abuse at Oklahoma.

Offensively, Tennessee couldn’t establish NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry for two reasons — the large margin on the scoreboard and its inability to win the line of scrimmage.

Henry was limited to 60 yards on 15 carries, and was stuffed on a key fourth-and-1 early in the game that helped momentum turn.

The Titans even showed a lack of discipline, something that has become rare under Vrabel. They were hit with three 15-yard penalties, and defensive lineman Teair Tart drew a one-game suspension for stomping on Browns offensive lineman Wyatt Teller.

“At the end of the day, we can’t do dumb stuff that hurts the team,” Vrabel said.

The main story line in Jacksonville is coach Doug Marrone’s decision to stick with veteran Mike Glennon for a third straight game at quarterback. Even though Gardner Minshew (thumb) is active and begged Marrone to put him in the lineup prior to a 27-25 loss to Cleveland two weeks ago, Marrone stuck with Glennon.

And Glennon hasn’t given the embattled coach a reason to consider a change. Glennon has completed 62.3 percent of his passes the last two games, although he did toss two interceptions in last week’s 27-24 overtime defeat in Minnesota.

“I still think that even though we lost the game and had some plays, there were still a lot of really good throws out there,” Glennon said. “There’s always going to be stuff to build on, but I feel confident in myself in both games.”

Rookie running back James Robinson, whose 968 yards ranks him third in the NFL behind Henry and Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, was limited in practice Wednesday with a knee injury. But Marrone believes that Robinson, a free agent signing who represents one of the league’s best bargains this year, will be able to play on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) drops back to pass during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Mayfield helps Browns slay Titans

Baker Mayfield tied a franchise record held by Otto Graham and the Cleveland Browns set a franchise mark with 38 first-half points Sunday in a 41-35 defeat of the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn.

Mayfield completed 25 of 33 passes for 334 yards and four scores for a near-perfect passer rating of 147.0. All four touchdowns occurred in the first half, matching Graham’s feat that was originally accomplished in 1951.

Cleveland (9-3) scored on all six first half possessions, and could have easily made it six touchdowns. But rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones dropped a potential scoring pass just before Cody Parkey initiated scoring with a 27-yard field goal with 10:43 left in the first quarter.

However, Peoples-Jones made up for it in the second quarter. On the Browns’ first play after Tennessee got on the board with Ryan Tannehill’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis, Peoples-Jones burned Breon Borders with an out-and-up. Mayfield hit Peoples-Jones in stride for a 75-yard score and a 24-7 advantage with 13:04 left in the first half.

That was part of a 28-point second quarter outburst for Cleveland. On the quarter’s first play, Mayfield lofted a 1-yard touchdown pass to offensive tackle Kendall Lamm. Mayfield added a 17-yard strike to Rashard Higgins and Nick Chubb capped the half by leaping a yard with 55 seconds remaining.

The Titans (8-4) tried to rally in the third quarter. They drew within 38-21 on two touchdowns by MyCole Pruitt. He caught a 22-yard pass from Tannehill, then recovered a fumble by A.J. Brown at the 3 and dove into the end zone.

Parkey’s 43-yard field goal upped the Browns’ lead to 20 points, and M.J. Stewart intercepted a tipped pass at the Cleveland 9 with 15 seconds remaining to keep Tennessee from drawing within two scores at the time.

Tannehill finished 29 of 45 for 389 yards with three touchdowns and the pick. He hit Cameron Batson with a 8-yard scoring strike with 28 seconds left to pull Tennessee within six points, but Andy Janovich fell on an onside kick to seal it.

League rushing leader Derrick Henry was held to 60 yards on 15 carries for Tennessee.

The Titans fell into a first place tie in the AFC South with Indianapolis, a 26-20 winner in Houston.

–Field Level Media

Oct 13, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern (6) in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Titans activate P Kern (wrist) from injured reserve

The Tennessee Titans activated Pro Bowl punter Brett Kern from injured reserve on Saturday, clearing the way for his return Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

Kern, 34, missed the past three games with a wrist injury sustained in a Nov. 1 loss at Cincinnati.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection and 2019 All-Pro has played 175 games with the Titans since joining the team in 2009 after parts of two seasons with the Denver Broncos.

The Titans also activated linebacker David Long from the reserve/COVID-19 list and activated cornerback Tye Smith from injured reserve.

Long, 24, has 11 tackles and one forced fumble in eight games this season. Smith, 27, has nine tackles in six games.

Saturday’s flurry of transactions also included promoting long snapper Matt Overton from the practice squad to the active roster, activating linebacker Will Compton from the practice squad, activating linebacker Tuzar Skipper from the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement and placing rookie defensive back Chris Jackson on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

–Field Level Media