Titans end season in AFC divisional playoffs

Corey Davis makes a one-handed catch in the end zone on a touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota to give the Titans a 7-0 lead.
(photo: Donn Jones/courtesy Tennesse Titans)

The Tennessee Titans finished the season with two Saturday games in the NFL playoffs. They won a 22-21 thriller on the road in Kansas City in the Wild Card round on Jan. 6 and lost to the defending champion and reigning dynasty in Foxboro, Massachusetts on Jan. 13. Since moving to Tennessee, these were their 12th and 13th playoff games, including the Super Bowl following the 1999 season; they have a 6-7 record in those games.

“Most definitely this season was a success,” tight end Delanie Walker said. “Nobody thought we would be this far, playing in the divisional playoffs.”

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 22-of-37 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns against the homestanding New England Patriots.

“You don’t play to come and lose in the divisional playoffs,” Mariota said after the game. You play to go win the whole thing, and we just didn’t execute, and didn’t make plays. They did, and they are moving on. Hopefully people use this as motivation.”

The Titans lost 35-14 and coach Mike Mularkey said after the contest Mariota played through a strained quad he suffered in the first quarter, but Mariota didn’t use it as an excuse. It was partly to blame for Mariota being sacked a season-high eight times, and those setbacks resulted in empty possessions, stalled drives and missed opportunities.

“I think we have a lot of areas to improve,” Mariota said. “But I think throughout this entire season we didn’t play a complete game of football. One phase plays well, and the other one doesn’t, and tonight we didn’t make enough plays.”

Mariota completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to receiver Corey Davis late in the first quarter to give the Titans a 7-0 lead. But the Patriots scored 35 straight points before the Titans scored again, the last time on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Davis with just 1:55 left. Davis finished with five catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns.

“We won some games, but I didn’t play probably at the level I wanted to throughout the year, but that happens, and I have to learn from it and grow from it, and I will,” said Mariota. “Obviously getting into playoffs was huge, and I thought we won a lot of games close, whether it was taking a last-minute drive to score. And when you are able to get in those tough situations and guys continue to make plays and we are able to win games like that it kind of creates that foundation you can build off of for years to come.”

The AFC Championship game is Sunday, Jan. 21 at 2pm CST – Jacksonville at New England on CBS; the NFC Championship game follows at 5:30 pm CST – Minnesota at Philadelphia on Fox; the winners meet in Super Bowl 52 in Minnesota on Sujnday, Feb 4 at 5:30 CST on NBC.

GOOD NEWS: Titans headed to the Pro Bowl this month and to England later this year

The NFL announced the matchups, locations and potential dates for its U.K. series: Seattle Seahawks vs. Oakland Raiders, Tottenham stadium, Oct. 14; Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, Wembley Stadium, Oct. 21 or 28; and Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Chargers, Wembley Stadium, Oct. 21 or 28. The NFL releases the full 2018 schedule around mid-April.

Three Titans have been selected to play in this year’s Pro Bowl: Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, left tackle Taylor Lewan and punter Brett Kern. Seven other players are alternates: special teamer Brynden Trawick, tight end Delanie Walker, safety Kevin Byard, kick returner Adoree’ Jackson, right tackle Jack Conklin, quarterback Marcus Mariota and linebacker Brian Orakpo.

The 2018 Pro Bowl, returning to the AFC vs. NFC game format after three years using an “unconferenced” format is Saturday, January 28 in Orlando, Florida, televised live on ESPN and ABC, WKRN NewsChannel 2 in Nashville at 3pm CST.

Titans part ways with Head Coach Mike Mularkey

Mike Mularkey

The Titans have parted ways with Head Coach Mike Mularkey after the two parties couldn’t come to an agreement over the future. Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk released a statement on Monday morning:

“I want to thank Mike Mularkey for his contributions to our franchise over his tenure with our organization. He took over our team during a low moment and together with Jon built a solid foundation for our franchise. I appreciated that Mike devoted himself to this team and the community.

In fact, we did discuss extending his future with our team over the past week, but in those discussions about the direction of the team, it became evident that we saw different paths to achieve greater success.

It is certainly unfortunate that we couldn’t find enough common ground. I generally believe that continuity is the best path for success, but I also view this as an important moment for our football team as we try to make that next step to sustained success on the field. Jon will begin the search immediately to identify that person.”

Mularkey was named head coach of the Titans on January 16, 2016. He served as interim coach for the final five games of the 2015 season.

The Titans went 9-7 in back-to-back seasons, and made it to the playoffs in 2017. The Titans lost in the AFC divisional playoffs on Saturday to the Patriots.

Questions about the development of quarterback Marcus Mariota and the team’s inconsistent offense were persistent throughout the course of the season, however.

The Titans finished second in the AFC South in 2017, behind the Jacksonville Jaguars.