Monday Afternoon Quarterback: Titans Rally To Beat Chiefs

Posted at 4:06 PM, Dec 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-19 18:40:10-05

Titans running back Derrick Henry has seen an increase in action over the past few weeks, but it hasn't come at the expense of veteran DeMarco Murray.

In fact, coach Mike Mularkey believes the two-back tandem is working as well as it ever has.

Henry, the Heisman Trophy-winning rookie out of Alabama, went through a lean stretch about a month ago, when he didn't receive a single carry in two of three games.

But Henry's carried 29 times for 160 yards (5.5 per carry) over the past three weeks, including nine carries for 58 yards and a career-best two touchdowns in Sunday's win over Kansas City.

Murray's running attempts, meanwhile, have stayed consistent for several weeks. He's been between 17 and 21 carries in each of the last five weeks, including the win over Kansas City, when Murray ran 18 times for 89 yards.

“I think they're both benefiting off of each other,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “I really do. The last few weeks (Henry's) obviously gotten obviously more carries. We've done some things with personnel groupings. But I think both of them are benefiting from the rotation that we have.”

The two backs helped the Titans run for 148 yards against the Chiefs, which marked the fourth time in the past five weeks Tennessee has piled up at least 140 rushing yards.

“I think both backs ran very well yesterday,” Mularkey said. “Derrick has run well every opportunity he's had. Demarco to me … was getting more into the groove as the game went on.”

Murray also added five catches for 52 yards against the Chiefs. None of his receptions were any bigger than the fourth-and-five catch he made on the Titans' second touchdown drive, a reception that gave Tennessee first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.

“That catch to get us down there was a huge play, to get us down there on fourth down,” Mularkey said. “He's done that in earlier games. Even in Detroit, we had that same type of route. He's part of that read ... That's a hard throw, back shoulder throw to a back on the sidelines, and a hard catch.”

Here are some other important topics Mularkey touched on his Monday press conference:

Klug out for season – Defensive lineman Karl Klug tore his Achilles tendon against Kansas City. He'll need surgery and will be out for the season. The Titans will consider adding another defensive lineman to the roster, though that may not be necessary considering Mehdi Abdesmad was just last week activated from the practice squad.

Klug has been a good all-round player for the Titans, but has been especially effective in passing situations.

“He's a big loss for our team,” Mularkey said. “Relentless play. He's a guy who's where he's supposed to be on all downs. Just a tough, physical, dependable player. Team-first, a guy we really like.”

Klug had been slowed during the week due to the Achilles, but looked healthy heading into the weekend.

“He had a really good practice (Friday),” Mularkey said. “He was a full go...I'm disappointed it happened, but I don't think we put him back there too early.”

As for other injuries, cornerback Jason McCourty (shoulder sprain, chest contusion) probably won't do much practicing early this week and will be re-evaluated. Safety Da'Norris Searcy and tight end Phillip Supernaw are both in the NFL's concussion protocol. This is the second concussion this year for Supernaw, though Mularkey said he's doing better this time than he was the last.

Linebacker Sean Spence, who missed the Chiefs game with an ankle injury, is likely to return this week.

Bad execution – Mularkey had no second thoughts about going for a two-point conversion when the Titans cut Kansas City's lead to 17-16 with 3:12 left in the fourth quarter on Sunday. But he was disappointed in the execution of the play, which wound up as a sack of Marcus Mariota after he'd rolled right.

The Titans had gone with three receivers on the right side of the field – Harry Douglas, Tajae Sharpe and Rishard Matthews – on the attempt. Douglas was the first option and he appeared to be open very briefly after the snap.

“It wasn't very well executed in our standards,” Mularkey said. “It could have been executed much better at the point.

“I would have liked to have seen what would have happened if he put it on Harry. I think the throw was there. It's not as clean as you like. I thought we could get a cleaner lane … But even with that being said, I'd like to have seen what would have happened if he'd thrown it.”

One yard difference – Had the Titans' final drive finished at the Kansas City 36-yard line – as opposed to the 35 – then Mularkey would likely have opted for a Hail Mary pass attempt instead of a field goal.

“That's every game,” Mularkey said of his dividing line as to whether or not to attempt a field goal.

Ryan Succop's first attempt from 53 yards was short, but he was given a second chance because of Andy Reid's timeout. Mularkey said he didn't consider opting against the field-goal try after the first attempt was short.

“You had to be there in the moment with that sideline and our belief he was going to make that kick,” Mularkey said. “Whatever it was – you can call it divine intervention or whatever it was – it was a belief he was going to make it.”

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