For the fourth straight year, the Tennessee Titans playoff hopes come down to the final week of the regular season.
The Titans were exposed yet again on Sunday Night Football, falling 40-14 to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Now, Tennessee’s playoff aspirations rest on a showdown against AFC South rival Houston next Sunday.
It’s simple: win in Houston and the Titans clinch their first AFC South title since 2008 and punch their playoff ticket for the third time in the last four years.
“I don’t think you can do that against anybody, with the mistakes that we made and the start that we had,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “It’s just not going to be good enough and just too inconsistent.
"…We didn't coach well enough and we didn't play well enough. I don't think anybody should be confident in anything that we did tonight. We all have to be better."
The Titans defense did little to help the team's cause. Sunday’s loss was the seventh time Tennessee allowed 400 yards or more this season. In four of Tennessee’s five losses this year, including the defeat at the hands of the Packers, the opposing team scored first.
MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers torched the Titans defense for 231 yards and four touchdowns, and receiver Davante Adams had 11 receptions for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Running back A.J. Dillon entered the game with just 115 yards rushing on 24 carries. Against Tennessee, he had 124 yards and two touchdowns.
Titans safety Kevin Byard didn’t mince words after the game, all but calling out Tennessee’s defense.
“We need to improve at everything,” Byard said.
"…Any time we lose it bothers me a lot," he added. "Obviously, as a defense, we didn't give our offense, we didn't give our team a chance. But it is very important that we try and regroup and forget this game. Because one of our goals we set at the beginning of the year is still there.”
Aside from the defensive woes, the Titans’ offense didn’t look like the Titans’ offense. Ryan Tannehill completed just 11 passes and threw two interceptions after having just five in his previous 14 games.
After rushing for 362 yards and three touchdowns in his previous two games, Derrick Henry had 98 yards and was held out of the end zone. His streak of nine straight road games with 100 yards or more was snapped.
Tennessee has shown a knack for faltering after giving up an early lead, and the team can’t rely on handing the ball to Henry when playing from behind. Now, with just one week left to figure things out, the Titans are on shaky ground.
"We knew coming in we [were going to need to score a lot of points] and we didn't get it done," Tannehill added. "There's no excuses. We just have to play better. We have to be able to look at this and get it fixed next week."
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_