Titans find their groove sacking QBs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans sure hope they’ve found the combination to help them get to the quarterback, and now they’ve set a standard they want to continue.

An eight-sack performance will do that for a team.

The Titans finished with eight sacks in last week’s 20-16 win in Indianapolis, the franchise’s best single-game performance since Nov. 10, 1985, when the then-Houston Oilers had eight sacks. That tied for the team’s third-best total all time.

“It puts the standards a little higher,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “I think all the work and the effort that they’ve been having in other games, it was good to see it come to light with what they did. Hopefully it’s going to give us a little confidence and certainly nothing negative about … what they did.”

Combined with three sacks in a loss at Pittsburgh, the Titans have racked up 11 sacks over the past two games. That is the defense’s best two-game stretch taking down a quarterback since having 12 sacks in October last season.

The Titans (7-4) rank 18th in the NFL with 25 sacks thanks to what they’ve done in the past two games.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau – a native of London, Ohio – said they’ve been getting consistent pressure on quarterbacks all season, and Tennessee lists 168 quarterback pressures already. Linebacker Brian Orakpo has a team-high 48 yet only four sacks, while linebacker Derrick Morgan has 45 and a team-high seven sacks.

“If you’re playing good ball, good things happen. That’s kind of unusual,” LeBeau said of getting eight sacks in one game. “It’s just like turnovers. If you’re getting to the ball and you’re hitting people, you’re going to get some good turnovers. We had some good breaks in there, and the guys played great.”

Seven Titans got at least half a sack against the Colts, and DaQuon Jones got his first two this season to nearly match the 2½ sacks he had combined through his first three seasons. The fourth-year end has eight pressures but hadn’t gotten to the quarterback until last week.

“It’s very frustrating,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, you have to keep believing in yourself and the ability to play football. It’s going to come. You might miss them early. We still have five games left, so a lot can happen.”

Morgan gives credit to the back end of the defense covering receivers long enough to let linebackers and linemen get to quarterbacks.

Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was thrown at five times, but caught only two passes for 15 yards. Safety Kevin Byard leads the NFL with six interceptions, while cornerbacks Logan Ryan and rookie Adoree Jackson have been sticking with their man.

“They’ve been doing an excellent job of covering up their guys and making the quarterback double-pump the ball and giving us time,” Morgan said.

Now the Titans’ challenge is keeping this up Sunday against Houston (4-7). The Texans have allowed 34 sacks this season, eighth-most in the NFL. Four more sacks for Tennessee would match the best two-game total in franchise history.

“It’s definitely huge,” lineman Jurrell Casey said. “You want to make sure we stay with that drive, that same momentum going into this game.

“But at the end of the day, they can kill you going up in the air. No matter who that quarterback is back there, we got to make sure we put the pressure on them.”

NOTES: WR Rishard Matthews (hamstring) and RB DeMarco Murray (illness) did not practice. Orakpo (rest) S Da’Norris Searcy (ankle), OL Brian Schwenke (illness) all returned after missing practice Wednesday.