NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans face a sense of urgency to correct the problems they have protecting their quarterback.
Giving up a franchise-record 11 sacks — one off the NFL record for a game — is a beacon to defenses looking to hit quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“The blueprint’s out there,” Mariota said Wednesday. “It’s how are we going to be able to manage that and correct that so that lack of execution doesn’t happen again.”
This franchise had never given up more than nine sacks in a game — and the last time that had happened was Oct. 31, 1971, against Cincinnati as the then-Houston Oilers. Eight different Ravens ripped through and around the Titans’ offensive line to sack Mariota in last week’s 21-0 shutout .
Now they’re preparing to face the Chargers (4-2) who piled up five sacks of their own last week in beating Cleveland, and center Ben Jones said the Titans have to hold up no matter how many defenders are coming after the quarterback.
“If they are bringing more guys or beating us late or right off the bat, we have to be on the right guys and have to hold up longer,” Jones said after the loss. “We put ourselves in bad situations. We were in third-and-long in a lot of situations. The routes take longer, everything takes longer, so we have got to be better and not put ourselves in those situations.”
Making the sack-filled performance so surprising is that the Titans had allowed only nine sacks through the first five games combined. This also was their third straight game the Titans had all five of their starters back on the offensive line, though two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan was knocked out of the loss in Buffalo with an injured right foot.
Lewan called the 11 sacks frustrating after the game.
“We’ll do the best job we can to go and fix that,” Lewan said.
Several of the sacks came with Mariota running, trying to extend plays while looking for a receiver. Coach Mike Vrabel said that will be part of the discussions with the quarterback on the fine line of when Mariota can extend a play or the time to throw the ball away to avoid contact.
“Then also, he has the ability to do some of those things and pick up some of those yards with his feet,” Vrabel said.
Mariota beat Jacksonville mostly with his legs on Sept. 23, then used his arm throwing for 344 yards to down Philadelphia in overtime on Sept. 30. He also ran for 46 yards against the Eagles.
But the Titans quarterback has just two touchdown passes with four interceptions, a similar deficit to last season when he had more interceptions (15) than TD passes (13) while being sacked 27 times in 15 games. Mariota ranks 31st in yards passing (793) in the NFL, and 31 more quarterbacks have more TD passes than he does.
Vrabel said the key is everyone doing more, from coaching to the Titans practicing and executing better. Tight end Jonnu Smith said the Titans have complete confidence in Mariota.
“Man, outsiders looking inside, they can’t really tell the true story you know what I mean …?” Smith said. “Marcus is a great player, and it has nothing to do with him. We’re a team and especially on our side of the ball it’s an offense and it takes all 11.”
Notes: LG Quinton Spain (right shoulder), LB Derrick Morgan (shoulder) and LB Will Compton (hamstring) did not practice. S Kenny Vaccaro (right elbow) returned to practice but was limited. LB Wesley Woodyard (shoulder) was limited, but DL Bennie Logan (elbow) practiced fully.