The Titans’ second-place finish in the AFC South will pit Tennessee against teams that finished second in the AFC East (New York Jets) and AFC West (Kansas City Chiefs) in 2014. (The schedule of dates will be announced in spring).
Vs. New York Jets
Jets’ 2013 Finish: (8-8); Points For: 290; Points Against: (387); Net: (-97); TDs: 27; Home: 6-2; Away: 2-6; Conf: 5-7; Last 5: 3-2
Jets’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (25th, 318.1 yards per game); Total Defense (11th, 334.9)
Titans vs. Jets Overall: (23-17-1); Most Recent: Titans 38, Jets 13 on Sept. 29, 2013
Early Outlook: The Jets have announced that coach Rex Ryan will be back for another year, and it will be the third season in a row that the Jets have traveled to Nashville. Tennessee has won the past two (14-10 in 2012 and 38-13 in 2013). As a rookie, Jets QB Geno Smith had the lowest qualifying passer rating in the NFL (66.5) in large part to his completion percentage of 55.8 and his ratio of 12 TD passes to 21 interceptions. If the Jets go with Smith in 2014, they’ll need him to boost those numbers.
Jake Locker had his best first half as a pro the last time the teams met. He was 18-of-24 passing (75 percent) for 149 yards and three TD passes (career-high passer rating of 130) before suffering knee and hip sprains early in the second half on a hit involving Jets DL Muhammad Wilkerson and LB Quinton Coples. Alterraun Verner had two interceptions of Smith and recovered a fumble forced by Zach Brown, and Karl Klug stripped Smith during a sack and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
At Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs’ 2013 Finish (11-5); Points For: 430; Points Against: 305; Net (125); TDs: 52; Home: 5-3; Away: 6-2; Conf: 7-5; Last 5: 2-3
Chiefs’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (21st, 337.3 yards per game); Total Defense (24th, 367.8)
Titans vs. Chiefs Overall: (20-27); Most Recent: Chiefs 26, Titans 17 at LP Field in 2013; Last time in Kansas City: Chiefs 34, Titans 14 in 2010
Early Outlook: The Chiefs will enter 2014 on the heels of their second playoff season in the past four after improving from 2-14 in 2012 when they had six Pro Bowlers to 11-5 in 2013 when eight players garnered selection to the all-star game. Quarterback Alex Smith and coach Andy Reid will be in their second season in Kansas City, and the Chiefs’ offense is likely to rely heavily on Jamaal Charles, who led the AFC with 1,980 yards from scrimmage. Charles had 1,287 yards on 259 carries (5.0 per attempt) and 693 yards on 70 receptions (9.9 per catch).
The Titans limited Charles to 37 yards on five catches, but the back managed 108 yards and a rushing TD on 22 carries when the teams met in October. Three Titans turnovers — a bad bounce off a punt that was recovered in the end zone and two interceptions — loomed large in that contest. Tennessee rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit with 17 straight points, including a 49-yard TD by Chris Johnson on a short pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was making his first start as a Titan in place of Jake Locker (hip and knee sprains), in the third quarter and a 9-yard run by Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter.
Both teams entered that game tied for the NFL lead at plus-9 in turnover ratio, but Kansas City finished second in the NFL at plus-18 and Tennessee fell to a tie for 14th at even in the final 12 games.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Jake Locker, Karl Klug, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
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Kansas City (+9) has forced an AFC-best 12 takeaways and Tennessee (+9) is the only team in the league without a turnover.
The Chiefs, who knocked off the New York Giants 31-7 last week, are 4-0, the second team in NFL history to win its first four games after finishing the previous season with at least 14 losses (1980 Detroit).
“Awesome,” is how Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith responded when asked about the team’s start. “It’s great. The entire focus was getting the first win. It’s a week-to-week thing. You can’t start looking down the line.”
The Titans have won two in a row, including last week’s 38-13 home victory over the New York Jets. Tennessee forced four turnovers in Week 4’s win, including two interceptions by cornerback Alterraun Verner and a forced fumble recovered in the end zone by defensive lineman Karl Klug for a touchdown.
“The work still isn’t done,” says Verner. “That’s just the first quarter of the season. We have a lot more football to play.”
Tags: Alterraun Verner, Karl Klug
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Linebacker Zach Brown and defensive end Kamerion Wimbley each had 1.5 sacks in the game*, while linebacker Akeem Ayers, safety Michael Griffin, and defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug each tallied a solo sack.
In franchise history, there have been only five games in which the Oilers/Titans recorded more than seven sacks and only three road games with more than seven sacks.
Most team sacks in a road game, franchise history:
8 – Nov. 10, 1985 at Buffalo
8 – Sept. 12, 1982 at Cincinnati
8 – Oct. 17, 1976 at San Diego
7 – Nov. 25, 2012 at Jacksonville
7 – Oct. 9, 2005 at Houston
7 – Nov. 28, 1999 at Cleveland
7 – Nov. 14, 1999 at Cincinnati
7 – Sept. 23, 1979 at Cincinnati
7 – Dec. 22, 1963 at Oakland
* Brown was initially credited with two sacks in the game, and Wimbley was credited with one sack. A third-quarter sack by Brown has since been changed to a split sack between Brown and Wimbley.
Tags: akeem ayers, Jurrell Casey, Kamerion Wimbley, Karl Klug, Michael Griffin, Zach Brown
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At 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, Karl Klug is not your prototypical defensive tackle. While his lack of size at the position may have scared off some teams in last year’s draft, the Titans were thrilled he was still available when they made their selection in the fifth round.
Little did they know Klug would produce at such a high level early on in his NFL career.
He played in all 16 games (one start) and led the team with seven sacks, 32 tackles, 10 QB pressures, two tackles for loss, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles. One of Klug’s best games came against New Orleans when he sacked Saints QB Drew Brees twice at LP Field.
Klug was the second of three defensive tackles taken by the Titans in 2011 (Jurrell Casey and Zach Clayton were the others) and part of an overall draft class that made huge contributions and exceeded most everyone’s expectations last season.
Titans head coach Mike Munchak calls Klug a “natural” pass rusher that will play a big role on Tennessee’s defense line in 2012.
“When you turn the tape on, he’s a guy that can beat somebody 1-on-1. A lot of d-linemen just can’t do that consistently like he can,” Munchak said. “He’s great with his hands, has great body control…that’s what we saw on the draft tape and that’s what we’re seeing now.”
Klug compensates for his lack of size with a combination of quickness and wrestling maneuvers he learned while competing in high school.
“I think that’s helped me out a lot,” Klug said. “Even though that was in high school, I still think that’s helped me up to this point as far as being aggressive with my hands, understanding leverage and playing underneath the guy. In wrestling, you are constantly in an athletic stance. You have bent knees. That’s how you want to play football — you don’t want to stand straight-legged.”
At times Klug catches larger offensive linemen off-guard.
“I’m assuming they’re probably licking their chops when they see my skinny (butt),” Klug said.
But Klug’s production in college — 9.5 sacks and 26 tackles for loss during his final two seasons at Iowa — didn’t get past Titans scouts and key decision makers.
“Maybe some teams have size parameters, and so they put those guys lower on their draft board,” Titans GM Ruston Webster said. “I think everybody saw that he was a good football player. He went to the East-West (game), he did well. His tape was good. He stood out on a very good college defensive line and made a lot of plays for them. It’s just when do you take that guy that’s a little bit undersized, and how do you play him?”
Munchak credits Webster and former Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt for finding players like Klug that fit the Titans’ system. With a little more upper body strength, Munchak believes Klug can become an excellent player in this league.
“It’s up to us to keep developing him and getting him to play more,” Munchak said. “He played a lot inside. We limited him a little more last year to passing downs. He could probably work on his upper-body this year to gain some weight to help him dramatically. But he’s a great kid, a great guy to have on your team. He led our team in sacks last year and he can up that number every year. He’s a special guy that really has a chance to make a difference in this league.”
Tags: Karl Klug
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