Improved D of the Titans sacking more QB, allowing fewer points | State / Region


Improvement is not a wonder of a game.

Led by outside linebacker Harold Landry, the Titans – who visit Indianapolis (3-4) on Sunday – sit 10th in the league with 17 sacks. That’s two less than their total for 2020 as a whole, when they placed 30th. They also give up fewer points.

“We’re just playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of arrogance,” said safety back Kevin Byard on Wednesday. “Guys steal while having fun doing plays.”

The Titans (5-2) also believe they can be better if they can stop giving up big plays and force more turnovers.

“All of our games this year, the games we won, the games we won in defense, we didn’t give up the big game, let the teams win it,” said Byard. “I think we have to continue this philosophy and obviously continue to get turnovers.”

The Titans limited Kansas City to a single field goal, the fewest points they’ve allowed since the Giants’ exclusion from the road on Dec. 16, 2018. The Chiefs haven’t been capped to three points since Dec. 30, 2012 – their last game before Andy Reid was hired as a coach.

“It was a wonderful sight to see, to see everyone playing,” said linebacker Rashaan Evans after the game. “Anytime you see something like that, it’s just contagious.”

Tennessee keep their opponents averaging 23.4 points per game, which is tied for 15th. Last year, the Titans placed 24th, allowing 27.4 points.

The pressure up front was the key. Bud Dupree, their big free agent addition this offseason, got his first sack this season to end the Chiefs’ first possession. Lineman Denico Autry, another free agent, led the Titans with two sacks last week. Pressure from Autry set up an interception from Byard, his third this season.

Landry is already two more sacks than he’s had all of last season, and the fourth-year linebacker is 1 1/2 off his career high of nine. Landry lobbied many quarterbacks in 2020. Outside linebackers coach Ryan Crow said Landry finished rushing passes where the linebacker was maybe an inch or an arm away before.

The Titans had to patch, mix and match due to injuries. Dupree missed three games before coming back against Buffalo. Linebacker David Long started six games with Jayon Brown in the injured reserve.

The secondary was the most affected. Cornerback Kristian Fulton, who entered the starting lineup this season, is on the injured list with a hamstring injury. Cornerback and first draft pick Caleb Farley tore up an ACL. Safety Amani Hooker, who replaced Kenny Vaccaro as a starter, recently returned from IR.

Still, the Titans are tied for sixth when saved in their own 20s, allowing opponents to score 50 percent of the time. That’s a big jump from 2020, when they ranked 30th (69.2%).

“We just know what we’re capable of on the defensive end of the ball,” Landry said after the Chiefs game. “We have so much conviction and confidence that we are capable of what we offer. We just have to keep doing what we are doing. That performance there could be more consistent.

NOTES: Nine Titans did not train on Wednesday with LG Rodger Saffold taking a day off. WR AJ Brown was limited for the rest. Lt. Taylor Lewan (concussion) has trained fully for the first time since being taken off the field against Buffalo on October 18, and his replacement Kendall Lamm (ankle) has fully trained.

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