NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Winning nine of their last 10 games at home gives the Tennessee Titans every reason not to look forward to their final road trip of the regular season.
That’s why the Titans are trying to make it a bit easier: They’re turning back-to-back road games into one trip. The Titans leave Friday for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, and they won’t return to Tennessee until after playing the 49ers in San Francisco on Dec. 17.
This will be the first time coach Mike Mularkey has taken this approach, but he said Monday the Titans researched the topic heavily this offseason. They went over the details of this extended road trip again at a meeting Monday, and Mularkey sees no issues staying focused as the Titans (8-4) work to remain atop the AFC South.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a challenge as people think,” Mularkey said. “This is a pretty locked-in team … they know we’re going on the road to play the Cardinals, and that’s it.”
The Titans will take a two-game winning streak with them as they hit the road. They’ve also won six of their last seven for the franchise’s best record at this point of a season since 2008. That season, Tennessee won its first 10 games and the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the playoffs. This season, the Titans are just 3-3 away from home and had to rally from 10 points down to beat Indianapolis 20-16 in their last road game .
In their 24-13 win over Houston , the Titans fell behind 10-0 for a second straight week. Mularkey said the Titans cost themselves points on three different plays that could have avoided that deficit.
“Don’t turn the ball over, that would help,” Mularkey said. “Don’t blow a coverage, and don’t miss a field goal. Those are three plays in the first half that had nothing to do with anybody but ourselves.”
The Titans did improve in one area: Running the ball.
They ran for a season-high 198 yards, the fifth time they’ve gained at least 168 yards on the ground. Marcus Mariota ran three times for 23 yards and a touchdown. DeMarco Murray, coming off his worst performance of the season with just nine yards on 12 carries a week ago, ran 11 times for 66 yards and averaged 6 yards per carry. Derrick Henry also had 11 carries for 109 yards with the clinching 75-yard TD run .
That moved the Titans up to seventh in the NFL in rushing and prompted Tony Dungy to say on NBC’s Football Night in America that Tennessee is winning ugly.
“This is not a Corvette,” Dungy said. “This is a dump truck. This is all they have got.”
That’s exactly what Mularkey wants to hear. The Titans are a win away from matching the most wins Mularkey has managed in a single season with four games left. He went 9-7 in his first season in Buffalo in 2004 and guided the Titans to that same mark a year ago in his first full season as head coach in Tennessee. Now they are in position to end an eight-season playoff drought.
“If it means we’re boring and we’re a load to handle, I’m OK with that,” Mularkey said of Dungy’s comments.
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