Dec 29, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) is tackled for a loss by Dallas Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson (6) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys send battered Titans to sixth straight loss

Dak Prescott threw two second-half touchdown passes to Dalton Schultz and the Dallas Cowboys clinched their second straight 12-win season with a 27-13 victory over the injury-ravaged Tennessee Titans on Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn.

Prescott was 29 of 41 passing for 282 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for Dallas (12-4). Ezekiel Elliott added a rushing score and CeeDee Lamb caught 11 passes for 100 yards for the playoff-bound Cowboys, who are 1 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.

Joshua Dobbs completed 20 of 39 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and one interception for Tennessee in his first career start. The sixth-year pro was selected to start over rookie Malik Willis despite just being signed from the Detroit Lions’ practice squad on Dec. 21.

The setback was the sixth in a row for the Titans (7-9), a beat-up squad that played without quarterback Ryan Tannehill (ankle), running back Derrick Henry (hip) and defensive end Jeffery Simmons (ankle), among others. Tennessee meets the Jacksonville Jaguars next weekend in a contest that will determine the AFC South’s playoff berth.

Robert Woods had a scoring reception and Kevin Byard had two interceptions for the Titans.

Tennessee was penalized 10 times for 124 yards, while Dallas was flagged three times for 35 yards.

The Cowboys took a 17-6 lead on their first possession of the second half. Prescott hit Schultz on a 6-yard scoring pass with 8:48 left in the third quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 51-yard pass interference call on Tre Allen one play earlier, on third-and-19. That moved the ball from the Dallas 43-yard line to the Titans’ 6.

The Titans responded with a 14-play, 71-yard drive in which Dobbs tossed a 7-yard scoring pass to Woods with 2:04 left in the third quarter. It was the 27-year-old Dobbs’ first NFL touchdown pass.

Dallas pushed its lead back to 11 when Prescott and Schultz teamed on a 10-yard touchdown with 11:58 remaining in the contest. Brett Maher booted a 45-yard field goal to make it 27-13 with 6:24 remaining.

Prescott committed three first-half turnovers (two interceptions, one lost fumble) as the Cowboys led just 10-6 at the break.

Elliott scored on a 1-yard run with 4:36 left in the first quarter, and Maher added a 36-yard field goal four seconds into the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.

Randy Bullock kicked field goals of 37 and 29 yards in the final 64 seconds of the half. Byard’s interception return of 28 yards to the Dallas 41 with 21 seconds remaining set up the second field goal.

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) warms up before the game against the Houston Texans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Titans QB Joshua Dobbs to start vs. Cowboys

Tennessee Titans quarterback Joshua Dobbs will make his first career NFL start in Thursday’s game against the visiting Dallas Cowboys, multiple media outlets reported.

Dobbs reportedly is getting the nod over rookie Malik Willis for Tennessee, which is without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill due to an ankle injury.

As for the Cowboys (11-4), NFL Network reported running back Tony Pollard is expected to be inactive for Thursday’s contest. Pollard has been unable to participate in practice all week due to a thigh injury.

The Titans (7-8) can improve their record but risk injury while gaining no ground in playoff positioning until the Jan. 8 winner-take-all AFC South showdown with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Even if the Jaguars beat the Houston Texans on Sunday to improve to 8-8, and should Tennessee lose Thursday, the division title would still be on the line when the teams meet head-to-head.

Dobbs, 27, was signed by the Titans off the Detroit Lions’ practice squad on Dec. 21. He began the season with the Cleveland Browns, who parted ways with him after Deshaun Watson joined the roster following his 11-game suspension.

He appeared in six games with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2018 and 2020 seasons, completing 10 of 17 passes for 45 yards with one interception.

Dobbs returns to the state where he played in college at Tennessee from 2013-16 and threw for more than 7,000 yards.

Willis, 23, completed just 14 of 23 passes for 99 yards and two interceptions in Tennessee’s 19-14 loss to the Houston Texans last Saturday. He is completing just 50.8 percent of his passes for 276 yards with three picks in eight games this season.

Pollard, 25, sits 12 rushing yards shy of 1,000 for the season. Teammate Ezekiel Elliott has 829 yards and 11 touchdowns, including scores in eight consecutive games.

Pollard has a team-leading 12 total touchdowns (nine rushing, three receiving). The 2022 Pro Bowl selection was limited to nine carries for 19 yards last week, when the Cowboys rallied to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, and McCarthy said Malik Davis would see more reps in this week’s prep sessions.

Davis has 23 carries for 103 yards and one touchdown in 10 games this season.

Dallas is the top wild-card team in the NFC and maintains the slimmest hope of catching Philadelphia in the East division.

The Cowboys can win the NFC East if the Eagles lose their final two games and Dallas beats the Titans and Washington Commanders. Philadelphia (13-2) locks up the division and home-field advantage throughout conference playoffs with a victory Sunday against the New Orleans Saints (6-9).

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis (7) hands the ball to running back Derrick Henry (22) during the fourth quarter at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports

Titans ponder preseason approach as Cowboys continue East chase

All-risk, no-reward stands as the objective predicament the Tennessee Titans face for Thursday’s date with the Dallas Cowboys.

The Titans (7-8) can improve their record but risk injury while gaining no ground in playoff positioning until the Jan. 8 winner-take-all AFC South showdown with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Even if the Jaguars beat the Houston Texans to improve to 8-8, should Tennessee lose Thursday, the division title would still on the line when the teams meet head-to-head.

“We’re at where we’re at,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of the dichotomy of pushing to solve a five-game losing streak even with the option to rest players Thursday. “We’re trying to figure out what’s the most important thing, what’s best for the team, what’s best for the player.”

Lagging confidence brought by a winless December — Tennessee’s last victory was Nov. 17 at Green Bay — and injuries to key personnel including quarterback Ryan Tannehill (ankle) might be enough to convince Vrabel to use select starters in a cameo on a short week.

“Whatever I’ve got to do,” Titans running back Derrick Henry said on Tuesday after practicing in a limited capacity because of a hip injury. “Whatever coach needs me to do, I’ll be ready to do.”

After listing nearly 40 percent of the active roster on the injury report last week, Vrabel finds himself in tight quarters in his own locker room thanks to comments regarding the commitment of players outside of their supervised work schedule at team headquarters. Given that backdrop, pulling back on preparation at this juncture of the season could be a catch-22, but Vrabel said the team’s best interest is the only variable right now.

“I have a lot of respect for most of these guys that have been here. My job is to listen, find out what each and every player, coach is thinking and make a decision in the best interest of the football team,” Vrabel said.

In addition to Henry, the other positive injury news for Tennessee on Tuesday was the health of the secondary. Cornerback Kristian Fulton was a limited practice participant after missing three consecutive games with a groin injury. Safety Amani Hooker (knee) practiced for the first time in three weeks but was also limited.

Vrabel said Tannehill is “disappointed he can’t help us right now” but praised the team’s leaders for their approach to Week 17. The Titans are preparing rookie Malik Willis to start in the face of profound struggles pushing the ball down the field. Willis is 31 of 61 for 276 yards with zero touchdowns, three interceptions and has been sacked 10 times.

Dallas (11-4) is the top wild-card team in the NFC and maintains the slimmest hope of catching the Philadelphia Eagles in the East division.

“Honestly, I don’t ever really care what they’re doing on the other side,” Prescott said. “It’s about us just building momentum and gaining confidence with each game, and moving forward as we play these last two (games) out and move over into the postseason.”

Even if the Titans opt to roll out their “A” team, recent trends are not on their side. The Titans are averaging 15.2 points per game since scoring a season-high 27 points to beat the Packers. In the same timeframe, the Cowboys scored 223 points (Tennessee has 269 for the season), an average of 37.2 over a six-game stretch.

The Cowboys are still trending upward after a 40-34 comeback win over the Eagles last week, their fifth victory in six games. While the pass rush has slowed with one quarterback sack in the past three games, the body of work is daunting: 49 sacks and a plus-12 turnover margin. The Titans are minus-3.

And Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy isn’t fretting the downturn in pass-rush production and gave no thought to the idea of resting key players to match Tennessee’s lineup.

“I think the only people that need to be worried about our pass rush are (the teams) we line up against,” he said Tuesday.

The Cowboys can win the NFC East if the Eagles lose their final two games and Dallas beats the Titans and Washington Commanders. Philadelphia locks up the division and home-field advantage throughout conference playoffs with a victory Sunday against the already-eliminated New Orleans Saints (6-9).

“If [the Titans] wanna roll us the ball a couple times and let us go from there, I’m all for that,” Prescott said. “We’ll take it however they want to do it.”

But their own injury concerns could impact both sides of the ball. Cowboys guard Zack Martin (knee) was a full practice participant. Running back Tony Pollard (thigh) and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) did not practice.

Among limited participants Tuesday were linebacker Micah Parsons (hand), safety Jayron Kearse (elbow/back) and defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence (foot) and Sam Williams (concussion).

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) is stopped at the line by Houston Texans safety Jalen Pitre (5) and defensive tackle Maliek Collins (96) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Texans’ late TD hands Titans fifth straight loss

Davis Mills’ 6-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks with 2:52 left Saturday led the Houston Texans to a 19-14 win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn.

The outcome snapped a nine-game losing streak for Houston (2-12-1) and sent reeling Tennessee (7-8) to its fifth straight loss. The Titans fell into a tie for first place in the AFC South with Jacksonville.

Mills finished 17 of 28 for 178 yards with a touchdown and an interception, throwing for 69 yards on the winning drive. The key play was a 37-yard throw to Amari Rodgers that set up the Texans for first-and-goal at the 10.

Houston’s defense came up with two stops to secure the win. Christian Harris intercepted rookie quarterback Malik Willis at the Texans’ 42 with 1:39 remaining and Jalen Pitre picked off a Hail Mary pass in the end zone on the game’s last play.

Willis, making his third start after Ryan Tannehill underwent ankle surgery this week, was 14 of 23 for 99 yards. He scored his first NFL touchdown on a 14-yard run with 8:51 left in the third quarter.

Derrick Henry rushed 23 times for 126 yards and a score for Tennessee, breaking a four-game streak of rushing for at least 200 yards against Houston.

The pregame storyline was the game being delayed for an hour at the request of Nashville Mayor John Cooper to help conserve power in a city enduring record cold temperatures. The game time temperature of 20 degrees marked the coldest home game in the 23-year history of Nissan Stadium.

Tennessee initiated scoring on its second drive, using Henry’s 48-yard run at the 8:48 mark of the first quarter to cap a 60-yard drive and take a 7-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Houston found a rhythm on its second drive, marching 75 yards for the tying touchdown. Rex Burkhead recovered Mills’ fumble in the end zone at the 2:34 mark.

The Texans started the second quarter with a drive of more than eight minutes, resulting in Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 25-yard field goal. That made it 10-7 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Titans QB Ryan Tannehill (ankle) out for regular season

If the Tennessee Titans are to make the NFL playoffs, they’ll do it without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Multiple outlets reported Saturday that Tannehill underwent surgery this week to treat his high right ankle sprain and will miss the rest of the regular season. It was unclear whether he’d be recovered in time for the playoffs, should the Titans (7-7) get there.

The Titans host the Houston Texans (1-12-1) on Saturday and will turn to rookie quarterback Malik Willis, who went 1-1 when he subbed for Tannehill earlier this season.

Tennessee has lost four games in a row and find the Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8) chasing it for the AFC South title. The Titans face the Dallas Cowboys next week and close with the Jaguars.

Tannehill hurt his ankle absorbing a hit from Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Khalil Mack in a Week 15 loss.

In his fourth season with the Titans, the 34-year-old Tannehill has passed for 2,536 yards and 13 touchdowns with six interceptions in 12 games.

–Field Level Media

A frozen Tennessee Titans flag sits on the roof of a snow covered car on Hermosa St. in Nashville , Tenn., Friday, Dec. 23, 2022.

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Titans-Texans start delayed an hour due to power concerns

The start time of the Saturday’s game between the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans will be pushed back an hour due to a power emergency in the Nashville area.

The game was scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET, but Nashville mayor John Cooper asked for a delay because of the high demand for energy.

CBS will televise the game at 2 p.m. ET.

The request from City Hall came as the region grapples with bitterly cold temperatures that have resulted in a high demand for energy. As a result. the power supply has been overwhelmed, and the Tennessee Valley Authority told local power companies to implement intermittent service interruptions to stretch the supply.

As of 11:30 a.m. ET, the temperature in Nashville was 17 degrees with a real-feel temperature of 4 degrees.

“I’ve been informed that TVA’s unilateral rolling blackouts will continue. All non-essential businesses should reduce power usage. I’ve asked the
@Titans to postpone their 12pm (local time) game in solidarity with our neighbors,” Cooper tweeted.

Winter Storm Elliott has sent temperatures plummeting from coast to coast, and at least 12 people have died, mostly in car accidents.

Seven of the eight NFL games set for 1 p.m. ET are expected to begin with temperatures below 30 degrees. The exception is the game between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis, which will be played in a dome on a day where the forecasted high for the day is 4 degrees.

The Titans (7-7) host the Houston Texans (1-12-1) in a crucial AFC South game. Tennessee has lost four straight games and now has the Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8) nipping at their heels for the division title.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs with the ball during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Titans fight frigid four-game streak, tackle lowly Texans

Rather than a holiday break, the Tennessee Titans went holiday broken.

When Thanksgiving arrived, the Titans looked like a sure bet to win the AFC South after ripping off seven wins in eight games.

But a four-game losing streak, coupled with a recent surge from the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8), has melted Tennessee’s lead down to a game with three weeks left in the regular season. And suddenly, a Saturday home game against the NFL’s worst team doesn’t seem like such a cinch.

The 7-7 Titans take on the 1-12-1 Houston Texans on what could be the coldest day for a football game in Nissan Stadium. Game-time temperatures are expected to be in the teens, much lower than the 23-degree climes Tennessee and Jacksonville toiled in on New Year’s Eve in 2017.

It seems appropriate, because the Titans have been ice cold since a Thursday night win last month in Green Bay. Sunday’s 17-14 setback at the Los Angeles Chargers was one in which they battled through a spate of injuries, including an ankle that sidelined quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first quarter, but ultimately came up short.

Tennessee’s offense hasn’t been offensive enough lately. It’s averaging 15.5 points during the losing streak, unable to consistently spring Derrick Henry for big yardage on the ground or protect the quarterback. Tannehill absorbed four sacks Sunday among other big hits and is expected to be out for at least two more weeks.

Head coach Mike Vrabel wouldn’t confirm rookie Malik Willis is the starter this weekend, but the Titans did signal as much by signing quarterback Josh Dobbs off of the Detroit Lions’ practice squad.

Dobbs, 27, was waived by the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 28 and signed by the Lions on Dec. 5.

He appeared in six games with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2018 and 2020 seasons, completing 10 of 17 passes for 45 yards with one interception.

Willis started for the Titans in Weeks 8 and 9 and has passed for 177 yards with one interception this season. He has also rushed for 80 yards.

The Titans also placed offensive lineman Dillon Radunz (knee) on injured reserve Wednesday and signed offensive lineman Zack Johnson to the practice squad.

While the QB conversation is front and center, Tennessee is looking to tighten the handle on its turnover issues. It has coughed the ball up five times in the last two games, a killing number for a team that relies on ball control as opposed to explosive plays.

Perhaps the best path to warming up for the Titans against Houston is obvious: hand the ball to Henry. No other player in NFL history has more than three 200-yard, two-touchdown games in their career since 1950 (LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders and Jim Brown have three). Henry, however, has six total games with 200 and two — and four such single-game efforts against Houston in a row. That includes 219 yards and a pair of scores in the October meeting in Houston.

“I really don’t try to live in the past,” Henry said of his history of steamrolling Houston.

Meanwhile, Houston has found a way to play good football against a couple of the NFL’s best teams lately. Although it lost 27-23 two weeks ago at Dallas and 30-24 in overtime on Sunday to AFC West champ Kansas City, it was the equal of playoff teams for the entire game.

While the Texans were outgained 502-219, they minimized mistakes and took advantage of Chiefs miscues to tie their single-game high for points. Although Davis Mills’ overtime fumble set up the winning touchdown in overtime, he threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third.

Houston’s two-quarterback system of Mills and the more mobile Jeff Driskel brought the offense real rhythm for the first time this year, according to first-year coach Lovie Smith.

“I thought Davis did some good things throwing it,” Smith said. “Our two-quarterback system did some good things. I expect the guys to show up and fight like that throughout. Eventually, you’ve got to get over the hump.”

The Titans won the teams’ first matchup this season, getting 219 yards from Henry in a 17-10 victory on Oct. 30 in Houston. Henry has four straight 200-yard games against the Texans.

–Field Level Media

Dec 11, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill (17) and Malik Willis (7) head to the field as the team gets ready to face the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV/The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Titans to start QB Malik Willis vs Houston

Rookie Malik Willis has the Tennessee Titans’ playoff hopes in his hands when the Houston Texans visit on Christmas Eve, according to reports.

Ryan Tannehill will reportedly miss the rest of the season with a right ankle injury that will require season-ending surgery. Tannehill hurt his ankle absorbing a hit from Chargers outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

After Tannehill injured the same ankle in Week 6, Willis started in Tannehill’s place in weeks 8 and 9. He passed for 177 total yards with one interception this season. He has also rushed for 80 yards.

Willis dominated the practice reps Tuesday and Wednesday and teammates said he was the starter for a critical game this weekend against the Texans (1-12-1).

Tennessee (7-7) has lost four games in a row and the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8) are in position to make the AFC South division race interesting with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

With Tannehill’s status up in the air, the Titans signed Josh Dobbs, who played collegiately at Tennessee, off the Lions’ practice squad.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh Dobbs throws a warmup pass before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio, at FirstEnergy Stadium.

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Titans sign QB Josh Dobbs off Lions’ practice squad

The Tennessee Titans signed quarterback Josh Dobbs off the Detroit Lions’ practice squad on Wednesday.

It’s an insurance move with starter Ryan Tannehill’s status for this week in jeopardy due to an ankle injury.

Per NFL Network, the players believe that rookie Malik Willis will start Saturday when the Titans (7-7) host the Houston Texans (1-12-1).

Dobbs, 27, was waived by the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 28 and signed by the Lions on Dec. 5.

He appeared in six games with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2018 and 2020 seasons, completing 10 of 17 passes for 45 yards with one interception.

Dobbs returns to the state where he played in college at Tennessee from 2013-16.

If Tannehill can’t go, Dobbs would likely be the backup to Willis. Willis started for the Titans in Weeks 8 and 9 and has passed for 177 yards with one interception this season. He has also rushed for 80 yards.

The Titans also placed offensive lineman Dillon Radunz (knee) on injured reserve Wednesday and signed offensive lineman Zack Johnson to the practice squad.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA;  Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs with a ball during the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers hand Titans fourth straight loss on late field goal

Justin Herbert passed for 313 yards and Cameron Dicker made a 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining as the Los Angeles Chargers pulled off a 17-14 victory over the visiting Tennessee Titans on Sunday at Inglewood, Calif.

It was Dicker’s third game-winning field goal this season, although one came as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

On a day dominated by both defenses, the Chargers (8-6) did just enough on offense to help their playoff prospects, moving into an AFC wild-card spot.

After the Titans tied the game 14-14 on a 1-yard sneak by Ryan Tannehill with 48 seconds remaining, Herbert engineered a 52-yard drive for the game-winning kick.

Herbert completed 28 of 42 passes and did not throw for a touchdown for just the second time this season. He also threw two interceptions for the first time in 17 games going back to last season.

Tannehill was 15 of 22 for 165 yards and an interception while playing through a right ankle injury he sustained on the first offensive series of the game. Malik Willis played quarterback for one series. Derrick Henry rushed for 104 yards and a TD for Tennessee (7-7), which dropped its fourth straight result.

The Chargers appeared headed toward a promising offensive day when they drove 68 yards on 14 plays during their first possession, getting a 1-yard TD run from Joshua Kelley with 4:25 remaining in the opening quarter.

Immediately after Tannehill returned from his injury, with a heavily-taped ankle, he led the Titans on a six-play, 63-yard drive that ended with Henry’s 4-yard TD run.

Not counting the Titans’ one play before halftime, the teams went a combined 11 drives without scoring. After Tennessee’s Randy Bullock missed a 51-yard field-goal attempt with 13:39 remaining, the Chargers embarked on a 59-yard scoring drive.

Herbert hit Keenan Allen on a 31-yard pass two plays before Ekeler powered his way into the end zone from 3 yards out for his ninth rushing TD of the season and a 14-7 lead with 10:28 remaining.

Tennessee got the ball with 2:57 remaining at their own 26-yard line as Tannehill engineered a game-tying drive.

With the loss, the Titans’ grip on first place in the AFC South was reduced to one game over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

–Field Level Media