Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. James Kenney The Associated Press
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. James Kenney The Associated Press

Sports

Seven things to know about the Tennessee Titans

By Pete Grathoff

pgrathoff@kcstar.com

December 31, 2017 06:59 PM

It’s all set.

The Chiefs will play host to the Tennessee Titans in a wild-card-round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium next weekend. Kickoff is at 3:35 p.m. on Saturday and the game will be shown on ESPN nationally (Ch. 9 in Kansas City).

Here are seven things to know about the Titans, who finished with a 9-7 record and were second in the AFC South:

1. QB Marcus Mariota

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You’ve heard of a sophomore slump, but Mariota has had a junior slump. He threw a career-worst 15 interceptions, second-most in the NFL (Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer had 21).

Mariota’s 78.6 passer rating ranked 30th out of quarterbacks attempting at least 100 passes. That was one spot behind Miami’s Jay Cutler and one ahead of Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky.

On Sunday, Mariota completed 12 of 21 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. He’s also a rushing threat. He ran for 60 yards on Sunday and has 312 yards rushing this season, with five touchdowns.

2. Running backs?

Titans star running back DeMarco Murray missed Tennessee’s season finale because of a knee injury, and his status for Saturday’s game is not known.

Murray, who has 659 yards with six touchdown in 184 carries this season, was hurt the previous week against the Rams.

The good news for the Titans: Derrick Henry is their leading rusher. He finished the season with 744 yards in 176 attempts (4.2 yards per rush) and five touchdowns.

3. Receiving targets

Walker is Mariota’s top target. He had a team-high 74 catches for the Titans for 725 yards. Former Broncos star Eric Decker is second with 54 catches on the season for 563 yards.

4. Slumping

The Titans had an inside track to the playoffs in early December. Then came three straight losses — all against NFC West teams — by a combined 11 points.

But needing a win to get into the playoffs, Tennessee knocked off the Jaguars in the season finale and grabbed the No. 5 seed by virtue of the victory and the Ravens’ loss.

5. Old friend

The Titans’ kicker won’t be intimidated by having to try his luck at Arrowhead Stadium.

That because former Chief Ryan Succop is Tennessee’s kicker, and he has made 35 of 42 attempts, including all three of his tries on Sunday against the Jaguars.

Succop, who played for the Chiefs from 2009-13, made all 17 of his field-goal attempts from inside of 40 yards. He is 16 of 20 on kicks between 40 and 49 yards and 2 of 5 on kicks of 50 or more yards.

6. Third-down defense

The Titans have been good at stopping teams on third down. Entering Sunday’s game against the Jaguars, Tennessee was ranked seventh, allowing a third down on 36.6 percent of an opponent’s chances. The Jaguars were 6 of 16 on third downs on Sunday (37.5 percent).

7. Seeing yellow

Entering Sunday’s game, Tennessee had been penalized 113 times, which was the fourth-most in the NFL. They were flagged twice for 15 yards on Sunday.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff