Titans' improved ball security faces stiff test vs. Chiefs
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The usually generous Tennessee Titans have become quite stingy with the football during the holiday season.
They have gone four straight games without a turnover.
It's an impressive run for the Titans and quarterback Marcus Mariota in particular in the team's longest such streak since the start of the 2013 season. But they'll face a team Sunday in the Kansas City Chiefs that ranks third in the NFL with a turnover differential of plus-11 and are tied for the league-high with 25 takeaways.
The Chiefs have 14 interceptions and have recovered 11 fumbles this season. Defensive back Marcus Peters leads Kansas City with five interceptions, while safety Eric Berry has three.
''They're an aggressive defense, not that ours isn't,'' Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Wednesday. ''They've just been able to get more balls. They've got the interceptions they've had. They've been able to score four times with interceptions. They've had a fumble recovery for (a touchdown). They've been more opportunistic. It's not that they're playing any harder or any different than our guys. It's just that they've had things go their way, the ball bounce their way, more than us.''
The Titans have 15 takeaways with the defense just recovering their first two fumbles this season in last week's 13-10 win over Denver.
Ball security is an area the Titans struggled with early this starting with three turnovers in the opening loss to Minnesota . Mariota has lost four fumbles with three returned for touchdowns along with eight interceptions - two of those pick 6s. DeMarco Murray, who fumbled in the opener, has the other turnover.
''Everybody has been responsible for taking care of the football, taking care of our football,'' Mularkey said. ''It starts with the quarterback, obviously, and he has done a better job. You can see him in the pocket, some things he's improved on from early in the season, and even out of the pocket when he's carrying it, but everybody has been very good with it. They're all responsible.''
The second-year quarterback has not turned the ball over since Nov. 6 when he was intercepted twice with one fumble, which were turned into two touchdowns in a 43-35 win by San Diego. Mariota has thrown 115 consecutive passes since that last interception, which he knows will be challenging against the Chiefs.
''They're probably one of the better defenses in the league, one of the toughest defenses we'll probably face all year,'' Mariota said. ''They've got guys all across the board that can make plays whether it's up front or on the back end. Again, we're going to have our work cut out this week.''
The respect is mutual, according to Berry.
''Honestly, they've been doing a great job of taking care of the ball,'' Berry said of the Titans. ''The offense is pretty good. You can tell they're very disciplined. We're just going to have to try to make some plays to make some things happen.''
Kansas City coach Andy Reid called Mariota a good player whose improvement from his rookie season is easy to see. The Titans quarterback also looks more comfortable and appears to be seeing both defenses and the field well. Reid said Mariota's deep passes are ''beautiful.''
As much as the Titans see the Chiefs as a test of how well they can protect the ball, the Chiefs still want to find a way to take it away.
''That's what makes this such a great challenge,'' Reid said. ''We'll try to do our best that we can against them.''
Notes: DL Jurrell Casey was limited in practice Wednesday after sitting out the win over Denver. ... LB Sean Spence (ankle) and DL Karl Klug (Achilles) did not practice.
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