NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The skidding Tennessee Titans now have cost themselves a full week of rest at their bye.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt had offered his Titans seven days off if they got to Monday with a 4-4 record. Instead, the Titans lost two straight to slide to 2-6, so he is keeping them around for practices Tuesday and Wednesday before letting them take off for the four-day break mandated by the labor agreement.
"To be honest with you, I think most of the guys are going to want to practice so that's a positive," Whisenhunt said Monday.
The Titans have lost six of their last seven. They didn't give much help to rookie Zach Mettenberger, the third different quarterback to start this season, as they piled up three-and-outs and penalties that bogged down drives even as the rookie threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-16 loss to Houston on Sunday.
Even the run game had its worst performance yet.
The Titans currently are 30th in the NFL in points scored per game, dead last on third-down efficiency, 30th in first downs per game and 27th in total yards.
Penalties also are another area that the Titans will be addressing. Three teams have more than Tennessee's 63 penalties, while only New England has more yards off penalties (628) than the Titans (580). Whisenhunt said he had a shorter play call sheet against Houston because the offense struggled so much, limiting what he could call even with the rookie quarterback.
"Nine of our last 22 drives have involved a penalty that have stalled a drive, and that's very difficult," Whisenhunt said. "So we've got a plan going into this bye week that we're going to try to implement with that that involves a couple different things, and hopefully we'll have success with that."
That's why third downs and red zone are the top priorities in these practices, including Nov. 3 when the Titans return before preparing to visit Baltimore on Nov. 9.
Some coaches make players run extra as punishment for penalties, and Whisenhunt said they might try that. Rules prevent coaches from fining players for penalties.
"We would have quite a kitty if we did that," Whisenhunt said.
The Titans have been using a committee approach to their backfield, averaging 4.4 yards per carry overall. Against Houston, they ran just 13 times for 36 yards.
This franchise invested heavily in its offensive line with two first-round draft picks in right guard Chance Warmack last year and left tackle Taylor Lewan this year, and left guard Andy Levitre and right tackle Michael Oher were free agent signees. Center Brian Schwenke was a draft pick last year.
What counts as progress is that while the Titans were flagged six times Sunday, they weren't penalized once in the second half. Three penalties were on offensive linemen leading to third downs with at least 18 yards to pick up the first down, which they didn't. Only cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson has been flagged more often so far this season.
"It's very frustrating, and we all take turns doing it," Schwenke said after the game. "We all just have to hold ourselves accountable and eliminate it. There's no other way around it.
Whisenhunt said the challenge for the offensive line is consistency with players taking turns making mistakes.
"There has been some improved play at times," Whisenhunt said. "It's just not enough to say that we're doing it consistently."
Notes: Whisenhunt said CB Coty Sensabaugh and TE Taylor Thompson both should practice after being limited by injured right knees. WR Nate Washington (sprained shoulder) will not practice this week, but the coach expects the veteran back next week.
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