Titans sound ready to let veteran kicker fix his issues
By TERESA M. WALKER
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Mike Vrabel and the Tennessee Titans sound prepared to be patient with four-time Pro Bowl kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Making the game-winning field goal certainly helps.
Gostkowski's track record does too.
"For a guy that's a career 87% field-goal kicker who's done it as long as he has, I think a lot of those corrections are going to be on him," Vrabel said Tuesday hours after Gostkowski made a 25-yarder with 17 seconds remaining for a 16-14 win in Denver to open the season.
"But it's also going to be about us in the operation and the ability for us to protect and the ability to make everything around him better and have a lot of faith and confidence in Stephen in moving forward."
The Titans thought they fixed their kicking woes by signing Gostkowski, the fifth-ranked kicker in NFL history on Sept. 3. Instead, the NFL's worst field-goal team in 2019 picked up where they left off after using five different kickers last season.
Gostkowski's misses led to flashbacks to last October when Cairo Santos missed three field goals and had another blocked in a 14-7 loss to Buffalo. Gostkowski was wide right from 47 yards, had a 44-yarder blocked and yanked a 42-yarder wide left. Then he missed an extra point in the fourth quarter.
The Titans cut Santos after his misses.
Gostkowski said he thought he sped up after just missing the first field goal, which could be an easy fix of timing with practice. This also is a short week with the Titans returning home Tuesday morning with Jacksonville visiting Sunday. Testing protocols make quick roster changes much tougher.
After the missed extra point, Gostkowski also took off his right sock.
"I practice without socks all summer so then I started putting them on," Gostkowski said. "I would have taken my pants off to make that last kick to try something different. I wasn't doing very well so I had to switch something up for mental sake. It's just a weird quirk I guess."
The offense's ability to score in the red zone and the two-minute offense. The Titans led the NFL in scoring on 75.6% of drives inside an opponent's 20. They scored TDs on their first two drives, then got the game-winning field goal.
Tannehill led the Titans on three game-winning drives last season. He notched his fourth - and 17th of his career - against Denver. Tannehill completed his first five passes on the drive.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Titans ranked eighth last season for fewest penalties in the NFL and led the league for the fewest penalties in Vrabel's debut season. They had four penalties for 33 yards in the first quarter before finishing with five.
Linebacker Rashaan Evans, their leading tackler last season, was ejected after an unsportsmanlike penalty when he swung his right hand at Denver tight end Jake Butt late in the first quarter.
WR Corey Davis. The No. 5 pick overall in 2017 finds himself in a contract year after the Titans declined to pick up his fifth-year option. He had offseason toe surgery and appeared healthy with his best game since 2018. He caught seven of the eight passes thrown to him for 101 yards.
Gostkowski. According to Next Gen Stats, the odds of the veteran kicker missing three field goals and an extra point were 1 in 1,804 or about 0.06%.
The Titans put cornerback Adoree Jackson on injured reserve before the game, then veteran Johnathan Joseph hurt his right arm in the first quarter. LT Taylor Lewan left the game in the third quarter after hurting his right knee but returned.
14-0 - The Titans' record when Derrick Henry runs for at least 100 yards. The NFL rushing leader of 2019 ran 31 times for 116 yards for a 3.7-yard average per carry.
The Titans now will play four of their next five at home starting Sunday in their home opener against Jacksonville. Then there's a trip to Minnesota before hosting Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Houston in October.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker
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Updated September 15, 2020