Frustrated Titans looking for new kicker, improved offense

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              Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel argues with down judge Kent Payne in the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Frustrated, discouraged, disappointed and plain ticked off. The Tennessee Titans are not happy with themselves after losing three of their past four games.

And their replacement kicker paid the price Monday.

The Titans released Cairo Santos a day after the kicker filling in for veteran Ryan Succop missed three field goals and had a fourth blocked in a 14-7 loss to Buffalo left them 0-2 at home this season.

Now second-year coach Mike Vrabel has to balance a team playing really good defense and jump-start an offense that has scored only a touchdown in two of the past three games despite an infusion of talent over the past two offseasons.

“We can only hope to change and fix some of the performance and some of the execution,” Vrabel said.

Then the Titans can try to end the seesaw this franchise has been stuck on in recent seasons.

WHAT’S WORKING

The defense. The Titans have held an opponent to 14 or fewer points three times and haven’t allowed more than 20 in any game this season. They rank fifth in the NFL giving up just 15.2 points a game, the best this franchise has started in scoring defense since 2008. Only four NFL teams have held opponents to 20 points or fewer in each game this season, and the Bills are in that group.

“Only thing we can do right now is not hang our heads,” linebacker Rashaan Evans said.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The offense. Santos’ performance came only after the Titans found themselves stopped time and again. Marcus Mariota took much of the blame early this season, but he got little help as Buffalo sacked him five times with teammates dropping five passes, four on third down.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” tight end Delanie Walker said.

Not only did the Titans invest heavily in the offensive line this offseason by signing Rodger Saffold as their new left guard and drafting Nate Davis to take over right guard, they also signed receiver Adam Humphries and drafted A.J. Brown. Yet the Titans rank 24th in the NFL averaging 19.6 points a game — a number boosted by an interception returned for a TD in the opener.

Saffold said Monday he’s struggled adapting to the Titans and the mobile Mariota. A lineman used to giving up one sack a year said he’s already had a couple games giving up two sacks.

“For me, that is just not good enough,” Saffold said.

STOCK UP

Harold Landry. The second-year linebacker tied for the team lead with seven tackles against Buffalo, and he also got another sack. Landry has a career-high four sacks in his first season as a full-time starter, doubling what the Titans’ starting outside linebackers had all of 2018.

STOCK DOWN

Left tackle Taylor Lewan. The three-time Pro Bowl tackle was flagged on his first offensive snap back from a four-game suspension for performance-enhancers, wiping out a 26-yard pass to Walker. Lewan also false started a play before the Titans were forced to settle for a 36-yard field goal to take the lead, which was blocked.

INJURED

Linebacker Sharif Finch hurt his left shoulder early and played only two snaps. Vrabel did not have an update Monday when asked if linebacker Cameron Wake would be back after being deactivated with an injured right hamstring.

KEY NUMBER

1 — The Titans have turned the ball over only once this season, making them the sixth team since the 1970 merger to go through five games with only one turnover and the first since the 2017 Kansas City Chiefs. But the Titans have been very lucky so far having fumbled nine times, losing only one.

NEXT STEPS

Fix the offensive line (again), find a new kicker and prepare for a trip to Denver (1-4) and a team in worse shape than the Titans. Then return to Nashville for a two-game homestand and a chance to climb above .500 against the Chargers (2-3) and Tampa Bay (2-3).