NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee Titans’ bye week couldn’t come at a better time following a second straight loss. Sunday’s 36-13 road disaster to the New England Patriots marked the first time this season Tennessee has dropped consecutive games, and it continued a pattern of sloppy play that began with the Houston home loss two weeks ago. Fortunately, the Colts also lost, so the Titans remained two games ahead in the AFC South. But they have now been passed by both the Baltimore Ravens and Patriots atop the AFC standings.

The Titans’ injury problems have robbed them of two premier players in Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown. Brown is on injured reserve and ineligible to return for at least two more games. There is a slim chance that Henry may return by the end of the season. Nothing was said Sunday regarding when/if wide receiver Julio Jones might return.

Already shorthanded, the Titans made things worse with four turnovers and poor special teams play that began with a penalty on the opening kickoff. An excellent Brett Kern punt got negated by an illegal motion penalty, and the second was much shorter, leading to a good Patriots return and a short field that the Patriots exploited for a touchdown. 

Kicker Randy Bullock had his first bad game, missing an extra point and a 44-yard field goal attempt. The defense played fairly well in the first half in terms of limiting touchdowns. While the Patriots scored on five of their first six drives, they surrendered only one touchdown. But in the second half the Titans were outscored 20-0, and defensive tackling was repeatedly poor.

Still, the defense was hurt by four Titans’ turnovers. QB Ryan Tannehill has had eight interceptions in his last five games, and suffered a particularly ugly end zone interception when the Titans were trying to get back in the game. Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman both ran well, with Hilliard gaining 131 yards on 12 carries and Foreman getting 109 on 19. Unfortunately, each also had a key fumble. Hilliard had a spectacular 68-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and also contributed runs of 17 and 13 yards.

But the passing game was mostly ineffective, and the absence of a deep receiving threat is making a huge impact in how teams are playing the Titans defensively. The Titans return to action Dec. 12 at home against Jacksonville.