Tennessee Titans free safety Kevin Byard (31) and cornerback Elijah Molden (24) leave the field after losing to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Mass.

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Titans activate S Kevin Byard off COVID list

The Tennessee Titans activated Pro Bowl safety Kevin Byard off the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday.

Byard, 28, had been placed on the list last week ahead of the team’s bye and did not miss a game. He hasn’t missed a game since becoming a starter midway through his rookie season, and has 89 consecutive starts (including six playoff games).

He is tied for third in the NFL with five interceptions and is Tennessee’s second-leading tackler with 64. He also has 12 passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Byard was selected All-Pro in 2017 and played in the Pro Bowl in his second year with the Titans, who selected him in the third round of the 2016 draft.

Despite losing their past two games, the Titans (8-4) are in first place in the AFC South. They host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Julio Jones (2) warms up during practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.

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Titans WR Julio Jones designated to return from IR

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Julio Jones was designated to return from injured reserve on Monday.

He was not alone, as safety Dane Cruikshank and wide receiver Racey McMath also received the same designation from the Titans (8-4).

The designations open a 21-day window for all three players to be activated to the 53-man roster.

Jones, who was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 13 with an ailing hamstring, has struggled to stay healthy in his first season with the Titans. He sat out three games earlier this season due to a hamstring injury.

Jones, 32, has 21 receptions for 336 yards and no touchdowns in six games this season. The seven-time Pro Bowler was acquired from Atlanta in the offseason after playing 10 seasons for the Falcons.

Cruikshank, who was placed on IR on Nov. 13 with a knee injury, has recorded 32 tackles and one forced fumble in nine games.

McMath, 22, played sparingly in four games before sustaining a quadriceps injury. He was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 8.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (24) takes the field before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Vaccaro retires from NFL, launches esports brand

Former New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro has retired from the NFL and launched an esports organization called G1, or Gamers First.

A first-round pick (15th overall) by the Saints in 2013, Vaccaro registered 610 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 10 interceptions and four fumble recoveries in 110 games (109 starts) with New Orleans (2013-17) and Tennessee (2018-20).

Released by the Titans in March, the 30-year-old Vaccaro said he turned down numerous NFL offers to pursue his passion with gaming.

“This isn’t a reflex decision for me; it’s something I’ve thought about for a long time,” Vaccaro said Wednesday in a news release. “I’ve been a gamer for even longer than I’ve played football, and I’ve always thought of myself as a gamer first. So this is the realization of a long-term dream for me.

“And while football has been how many have defined me, G1 is evidence for other athletes as well that life doesn’t end just because you put down the helmet. You can reinvent yourself.”

Vaccaro co-founded G1 along with entrepreneurs and professional gamers Hunter Swensson and Cody Hendrix.

“Vaccaro will now forgo the chance at a Super Bowl victory to instead shoot for a Halo World Championship,” read the news release.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots ride Mac Jones’ career day to win over Titans

Mac Jones passed for a career-high 310 yards and two touchdowns as the host New England Patriots defeated the Tennessee Titans 36-13 for their sixth straight win Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.

The rookie quarterback completed 23 of 32 passes and eclipsed his previous high of 307 yards in New England’s 54-13 rout of the New York Jets on Oct. 24. Kendrick Bourne made a pair of TD catches Sunday while Jakobi Meyers had a team-high 98 receiving yards for the Patriots (8-4).

The Patriots’ league-leading winning streak is their longest since they opened the 2019 season with eight straight victories.

Dontrell Hilliard rushed for a career-best 131 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries for Tennessee (8-4). The fourth-year rusher was elevated from the practice squad by the injury-depleted Titans ahead of last week’s loss to Houston.

D’Onta Foreman also rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries. Ryan Tannehill passed for 93 yards on 11-of-21 passing with one touchdown and an interception for Tennessee.

It was the Titans’ second straight loss following a six-game winning streak. Tennessee held the No. 1 seed in the conference coming into the day. New England entered as the third seed behind the Baltimore Ravens (7-3), who host Cleveland on Sunday night.

New England led 16-13 at halftime. Nick Folk’s fourth of five field goals had the Patriots on top 19-13 early in the third.

Late in the quarter, Jones connected with Bourne for a 41-yard score down the sideline that was set up by a timely block from Meyers.

Folk added a 52-yarder in the fourth quarter before Damien Harris rushed for a 14-yard touchdown with 4:38 remaining to put the game away.

The Patriots scored on their first possession of the game, with Jones hitting Bourne on a 4-yard fade in the corner of the end zone to make it 7-0 with 7:37 left in the first quarter.

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine dove low into the end zone on a 1-yard pass from Tannehill with 14:29 to play in the second quarter, but Randy Bullock missed the extra point.

Three straight Folk field goals put the Patriots up 16-6 before Hilliard broke loose for a 68-yard touchdown run with 37 seconds left before halftime.

–Field Level Media

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick shares a laugh with Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel after a joint training camp practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn.Nas Titans 8 14 Observations 030

Who’s No. 1? AFC top seed on line as Patriots welcome Titans

The No. 1 seed in the AFC is up for grabs Sunday as the leading Tennessee Titans visit the surging New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.

Tennessee (8-3) suffered a shocking 22-13 home loss to the Houston Texans last week, snapping its six-game winning streak. Now the Titans will try to hold off a Patriots team that has won five straight and sits one game behind them atop the conference standings.

New England (7-4) enjoyed an extended break after a 25-0 thumping of the Atlanta Falcons on the road last Thursday. A win on Sunday, coupled with a loss by the 7-3 Ravens versus Cleveland on Sunday night, would thrust the Patriots into the top spot in the AFC via tiebreaker.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows first hand how hard wins are to come by against the team coached by his former star linebacker.

“They’re a typical Mike (Vrabel) team,” Belichick said. “They’re tough. They’re physical. They make you beat them. They don’t make many mistakes.”

The Vrabel-led Titans dealt Belichick’s Patriots a 20-13 playoff loss in Tom Brady’s final game as a Patriot two seasons ago in the wild-card round on Jan. 4, 2020 in Foxborough.

Vrabel, who played eight seasons and won three Super Bowls with New England under Belichick from 2001 to 2008, also beat his former coach 34-10 at home in Week 10 of his debut season on the sidelines in 2018.

Vrabel doesn’t expect a third victory over Belichick’s team to come easily.

“They are not turning it over, they are not doing things to beat themselves. Obviously they have done a great job of taking advantage of bad football,” Vrabel said. “(They are) well-coached, they are running the football, they are playing physical. It will be a huge challenge.”

Last Thursday versus Atlanta, the Patriots only scored one offensive touchdown — a 19-yard pass from rookie Mac Jones to Nelson Agholor — and had a dominant showing on defense that included a 35-yard pick-six by Kyle Van Noy.

Jones finished 22-of-26 for 207 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Fellow rookie Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for a team-high 69 yards and veteran Damien Harris picked up 56 yards on the ground, where New England outgained Atlanta 134-40.

Without injured star running back Derrick Henry, the Titans have found other ways to move the ball. Even in defeat, Tennessee outgained Houston 420-190 in total yardage despite quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s career-high four interceptions.

On Tuesday, the Titans released former All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, who had just 27 carries for 82 yards and one score in three games. The move leaves Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman to handle the load in the backfield.

Tennessee will also be depleted in the passing game. With star wideout Julio Jones already on injured reserve, the Titans practiced without A.J. Brown (chest) on Wednesday. Ten players in all did not practice Wednesday while five more were limited.

New England had full attendance at its pre-Thanksgiving Day practice on Wednesday, although 11 players were listed as limited. Harris (neck), tackle Trent Brown (calf), tight end Hunter Henry (neck) and Dont’a Hightower (ankle) were among those who had a limited workload.

Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith was also limited due to a shoulder injury.

Smith would face his former team if he can play this week. He spent his first four NFL seasons with the Titans before signing with New England in the offseason.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  running back Adrian Peterson (8) runs the ball against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Titans waive veteran RB Adrian Peterson

The Tennessee Titans waived running back Adrian Peterson on Tuesday after just three games with the team.

The seven-time Pro Bowler rushed for just 82 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries for the Titans.

Tennessee added Peterson after losing star back Derrick Henry to a foot injury.

NFL Network reported that it is possible Peterson could return to the Titans.

The 36-year-old Peterson spent his first 10 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He was league MVP in 2012 when he rushed for a career-high 2,097 yards.

Since his departure from the Vikings, Peterson has played with five organizations over five seasons. His best season during that span came when he rushed for 1,042 yards for Washington in 2018.

Overall, Peterson ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,902 rushing yards and fourth with 119 rushing touchdowns.

Among 13 moves announced Tuesday, Tennessee added defensive back Buster Skrine, running back Dontrell Hilliard and outside linebacker John Simon to the active roster.

The Titans placed defensive back Chris Jackson (foot) and receiver Marcus Johnson (hamstring) on injured reserve. Johnson is out for the season.

Also, longtime receiver Golden Tate (695 career catches in 11 seasons) was added to the practice squad.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) pulls in a catch under pressure from Houston Texans cornerback Terrance Mitchell (39) during the first quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.Titans Texans 2196

Report: X-rays negative on A.J. Brown’s ribs

The X-rays on A.J. Brown’s ribs came back negative Monday, but the Tennessee Titans wide receiver is undergoing further tests, according to NFL Network.

Brown, 24, suffered the injury in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans with what was called a chest injury. He played 42 snaps before exiting with five catches for 48 yards. He also injured his hand.

Brown, 24, has 46 catches for 615 yards and three touchdowns on the season. He missed the Titans’ Week 4 game with a hamstring injury.

The Titans are already without Derrick Henry for the rest of the season and fellow WR Julio Jones for at least one more game with a hamstring injury. Jones was put on injured reserve Nov. 13.

The Titans (8-3) still lead the AFC South by two games and play at New England (7-4) this Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Houston Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) scrambles as Tennessee Titans cornerback Elijah Molden (24) chases during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Texans use 5 takeaways to shock Titans, 22-13

Tyrod Taylor rushed for two touchdowns and Desmond King II recorded a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions Sunday as the Houston Texans snapped an eight-game losing skid with a shocking 22-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn.

King returned his second interception of Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill 25 yards to the Tennessee 15-yard line and Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn followed with a 37-yard field goal at the 3:30 mark to make it a two-possession game.

It was Fairbairn’s 57th consecutive conversion from 40 yards and in, securing Houston’s second victory of the season.

Texans cornerback Terrance Mitchell then picked off Tannehill on the ensuing Titans possession, marking the fifth Titans turnover and the first four-interception game for Tannehill.

The Titans (8-3) had their six-game winning streak snapped under an avalanche of miscues.

After Fairbairn capped a 14-play, 62-yard drive with a 43-yard field goal on the Texans’ opening possession, Tannehill marched the Titans into the red zone before being intercepted on the last play of the first quarter. Houston linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill returned that pick 82 yards to the Tennessee 6 before Titans running back Dontrell Hillard’s touchdown-saving tackle.

The Texans (2-8) settled for a 24-yard Fairbairn field goal that pushed their lead to 6-0.

Houston extended that advantage to 12-0 when Taylor, who passes for 107 yards, scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown with 7:43 left in the first half. It was the Texans’ first touchdown on the road since the fourth quarter of their 31-21 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 2, a span of 268 offensive snaps.

The Titans kept stumbling along, with Tannehill flagged for intentional grounding with four seconds left in the first half, an infraction that prevented Tennessee from attempting a field goal.

Then, midway through the third quarter, the Texans opted to punt instead of attempting a 53-yard field goal – but the ball deflected off the foot of Titans return man Chester Rogers and Tremon Smith recovered at the Tennessee 5. Taylor scored on third down, marking his first career game with two rushing touchdowns and extending the lead to 19-0.

The Titans mounted a comeback with Tannehill finding Dez Fitzpatrick for an 18-yard touchdown, and Titans tight end Anthony Firkser recovered a Hillard fumble in the end zone for a touchdown that cut the deficit to six points midway through the fourth quarter.

Still, the two late turnovers doomed the Titans.

Tennessee outgained the Texans 420-190. Tannehill passed for 323 yards.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Tennessee Titans free safety Kevin Byard (31) walks off the field during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Rolling Titans ready to host reeling Texans

Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel appeared averse to any chest-pounding or moments of overconfidence as the Titans began preparations for what they hope will be a seventh consecutive victory on Sunday when they host the Houston Texans in Nashville.

Surprising results have become commonplace in the NFL this season, with underdogs rising up to shock favorites with the sort of frequency that reinforces the notion that anything is possible. The Titans (8-2) losing to the rebuilding Texans (1-8) seems unlikely, but that fact didn’t prevent Vrabel from laying out the Titans’ foremost aspirations for this week.

“We’re just trying to continue to improve,” Vrabel said. “Trying to get healthy. Try to play faster, try to play with more urgency and just continue to try to eliminate the things that are going to get you beat. Cleaning up some of the things that showed up on Sunday.”

The Titans edged the New Orleans Saints 23-21 last Sunday, their third victory by three points or fewer during their six-game winning streak. Tennessee has earned raves for its physical play and deserves credit for a series of performances that has netted those close victories. However, the Titans remain on alert and are aware that prior success doesn’t guarantee future results.

Climbing atop the AFC would mean little if the Titans suddenly slipped into reverse.

“It doesn’t mean that we’ve got to start losing games or get comfortable and be like, well, we’ve got ourselves the lead,” Titans safety Kevin Byard said. “No, we’ve got the lead, let’s keep the lead, let’s keep it going. Why not go further? Why not go undefeated for the rest of the year?

“That’s the mentality that you have to have. We are in new territory as far as being the top seed, but if we keep winning, great things will continue to happen.”

The Texans have dropped eight consecutive games and remain in full-blown evaluation mode. The latest such example was the decision to move third-year safety Lonnie Johnson Jr. back to his original position of cornerback, where he played 14 games (seven starts) as a rookie.

Johnson, a second-round pick of the Texans in 2019, leads the team with three interceptions and has recorded 39 tackles and four passes defensed in eight games (five starts).

“He was more comfortable there,” Texans coach David Culley said. “He wasn’t as comfortable playing safety. That wasn’t natural for him. He had been a corner before we got here, they moved him to safety, and then we tried him back there in our scheme. It just didn’t fit what he was athletically. We talked about it and decided the best thing for him to do was to go back to corner. Now that we’ve got him back there, I think he’s comfortable there and will remain there.”

The Texans are desperate for anything resembling positive momentum. After losing 31-21 at Cleveland in their first road game, the Texans have totaled 17 points in four road games since.

Through this string of humbling defeats, Culley is striving to remain optimistic.

“We’ve got eight games left, and we’re looking forward to the next eight games, taking them one game at a time,” Culley said. “We’re not looking at it as a losing streak. We’re looking at it right now as having a one-game winning streak and then moving forward.”

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) runs the ball during the second quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.

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Titans fend off Saints to secure sixth straight win

Ryan Tannehill threw a touchdown pass and ran for another as the host Tennessee Titans won their sixth consecutive game by defeating the New Orleans Saints 23-21 on Sunday afternoon.

Tannehill completed 19 of 27 for 213 yards for the Titans (8-2), who withstood a potential tying two-point conversion attempt by the Saints with 1:16 remaining.

Trevor Siemian, making his second start at quarterback since Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending knee injury, completed 19 of 34 passes for 298 yards with two touchdowns for the Saints (5-4).

Both teams played without their top running back as the Titans’ Derrick Henry is on injured reserve after undergoing foot surgery and the Saints’ Alvin Kamara was sidelined by a knee injury.

Mark Ingram II, who returned to New Orleans in a trade with Houston last month, started in Kamara’s place and rushed for just 47 yards, but that was enough for him to surpass Deuce McAllister as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.

The Titans recovered Deonte Harris’ fumble at the Saints 19 on the second-half kickoff. That led to Tannehill’s 2-yard touchdown pass to MyCole Pruitt that increased Tennessee’s lead to 20-6.

Ingram’s 13-yard touchdown run cut the lead to 20-12 at the end of the third quarter.

Randy Bullock kicked a 36-yard field goal to give the Titans a 23-12 lead before Brian Johnson, who missed both of his extra-point tries, kicked a 20-yard field goal to make it a one-score game with 5:35 left.

Siemian threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Callaway, but after a false-start penalty his two-point conversion pass failed, as did the ensuing onside kick.

Marcus Johnson turned a short completion from Tannehill into a 50-yard gain, setting up Bullock’s 28-yard field goal that gave Tennessee a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Siemian answered with a 46-yard completion to Harris, setting up an 11-yard touchdown pass to Tre’Quan Smith for a 6-3 New Orleans lead before Bullock kicked a tying 36-yard field goal.

Tannehill ran one yard for a touchdown that gave Tennessee a 13-6 lead.

–Field Level Media