Titans, Redskins each need win to keep playoff hopes alive
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Some might call Tennessee’s push for a second straight playoff berth desperate. Three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan suggests a different motivation for the Titans.
“Everyone here has an understanding of what’s at stake and we’re all willing to do what we’ve been doing the past few weeks to get it done,” Lewan said. “I don’t think it matters who gets the credit. ... It’s been a cool year. We just got to keep it going.”
Winners of three straight, the Titans (8-6) need to beat Washington on Saturday and Indianapolis in the regular-season finale and have either Baltimore or Pittsburgh lose to nab the AFC’s sixth and final seed.
Despite an injury-filled season, the Redskins (7-7) still have playoff hopes too, a game back of Dallas in the NFC East with a wild-card slot more likely if they win out.
“We all got to be ready to step our game up two more notches,” said Josh Johnson, the fourth different quarterback to start for Washington this season. “This is a big game.”
The Titans are coming off their first shutout in 18 years after downing the Giants 17-0 last weekend. They also can finish off a sweep of the NFC East with a win Saturday. The NFL’s No. 2 scoring defense is allowing only 18.1 points a game, and the Titans have given up only one offensive touchdown over the past three games.
Washington snapped a four-game skid, beating Jacksonville 16-13 last weekend . Redskins coach Jay Gruden says the Titans present a much different defensive challenge for Johnson.
“He’s got to handle the progressions, the snap counts, the formations, the blitz looks that they give you, which I can’t even tell you how many blitzes there are,” Gruden said. “There are about 3,000 we watched, so it’s going to be a great challenge for him.”
Some things to know about Washington and the Titans:
RUN HENRY RUN
The big question is what will Titans running back Derrick Henry do next after piling up a franchise-record 408 yards and six touchdowns rushing over his past two games. Henry needs 175 yards to match Hall of Famer Earl Campbell’s franchise record of 583 yards rushing in three straight games. Henry needs one TD to match Campbell’s seven TDs between Sept. 30, 1979 and Oct. 14, 1979.
The Redskins, fourth in the NFL with 25 takeaways, have allowed at least 130 yards rushing in each of their past five games.
“It’s always a welcome (sight) when you’re able to run the football in this league,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
Washington running back Adrian Peterson needs 77 more yards rushing to reach 1,000 for the season for the first time since 2015 when he ran for 1,485 for the Minnesota Vikings. Picked up by Washington in August, Peterson has started all 14 games for the Redskins, rushing for seven TDs. No one wants to see him reach the milestone more than Pro Bowl left tackle and fellow Oklahoma Sooner Trent Williams.
“It’s an outstanding accomplishment for a guy who was said to not have anything left,” Williams said.
MORE TITANIC D
Tennessee has allowed only one running back to reach 100 yards or more this season, and Houston’s Lamar Miller got 97 on one play. They held Ezekiel Elliott to 61 yards on Nov. 5, Leonard Fournette to 36 yards on Dec. 6 and Giants rookie Saquon Barkley to a 2.2-yard average and only 31 yards last week.
When Johnson led Washington to a fourth-quarter comeback and a victory last week, he did something no quarterback had done for the franchise since 2016 after rallying from a 10-3 halftime deficit. Washington had lost all seven games this season when trailing at the half with the Redskins’ previous victory when trailing at the break coming in 2016 in Philadelphia, a streak of 15 games. Johnson, who made his first start since 2011, wants to build on that momentum in his seventh career start.
The Titans’ defense is seriously hurting. Starting cornerback Logan Ryan was put on injured reserve Tuesday after breaking his left leg. Linebacker Brian Orakpo, who missed the Giants’ game, has yet to practice with an injured elbow, while four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has missed practice this week with an injured knee. Safety Kenny Vaccaro is working through the concussion protocol.
Washington put safety Montae Nicholson on the NFL reserve/non-football injury list Wednesday after he was arrested early Tuesday.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker