NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans say they’re rested after a bye that came way earlier than any NFL team ever wants. Now comes a favorable schedule that keeps them at home the rest of October.
Sure, the Titans blew a 13-point lead and a big opportunity for sole possession of the AFC South lead before their bye with a 35-33 loss to Indianapolis in their home opener. The schedule features visits from Buffalo (2-2) on Sunday followed by Miami (1-3) and Atlanta (4-0) in what left tackle Taylor Lewan calls a huge opportunity.
“It’s great,” Lewan said. “We come back and get off a bye week and go home and stay home. It’s awesome. I think we get the fan base, we got to win the games though, get them in here, get them rowdy, get them loud.”
This quirk in the schedule not only is very welcome for a team that started with the first two games on the road, but it’s very rare. This franchise hasn’t spent five games during a regular season without a road game since the 1960s when they were the Houston Oilers in the AFL, and not since 1967.
The Titans return second in the AFC South behind the Colts (2-2). But Tennessee has yet to put together consecutive wins since Whisenhunt took over in 2014 and won only once at home all last season, eking out a 16-14 win over Jacksonville by the tips of Hill’s fingers on a blocked field goal. Their lone win this season came against Jameis Winston and Tampa Bay (1-3).
They returned to work Monday, and coach Ken Whisenhunt said it’s now a 13-game season.
“We feel like ... if we can eliminate a few of our mistakes, a few of our things that we haven’t done as well that we’re really close to being a good football team,” Whisenhunt said.
The Titans (1-2) get some benefit from the early bye.
Cornerback Jason McCourty is expected to start against the Bills following groin surgery Aug. 24. Right guard Chance Warmack, who sprained his right MCL in a loss at Cleveland, also hopes to return to the lineup Sunday. Nose tackle Sammie Hill, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Sept. 2, also should return to practice Wednesday.
“A lot of our big dogs on this team will be able to come back after the bye hopefully and be ready to rock and roll,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said.
Whisenhunt kept the Titans in town for a couple practices before their mandated break during the bye. His Titans took advantage of the time to work ahead and start studying the Bills. Linebacker Derrick Morgan said teammates already had their iPads out preparing for Buffalo, eager to get back to work.
“I think guys are ready to come back and go on a run,” Morgan said.
Rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota was among those taking the advice of veteran tight end Delanie Walker to stick around and rest up. Mariota said Monday his parents stayed with him during the bye, and he spent most of his time relaxing on the couch.
The rookie knows he needs to protect the ball better after his first two interceptions came against the Colts. Throwing quicker could help cut down on sacks. Mariota said the Titans now just have to finish.
“As we go forward, this team is willing to do that and has learned to do that,” Mariota said.
Now they get to start proving that.
AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker