The Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers have made the trip abroad to London for Sunday’s game with their seasons going in opposite directions on offense.
The Chargers (4-2) are on a three-game winning streak with one of the more well-balanced offenses in the league while the Tians (3-3) have dropped two straight and haven’t scored a touchdown the past two weeks.
Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariotta said there is plenty of urgency going into the game, while also trying not to push too hard.
“It’s finding the happy medium. When it comes down to it, it’s just making plays,” he said. “When you’re out here in practice, it’s getting comfortable with the game plan, making sure that everybody knows the little details. From there, it’s just the process.”
If the Titans are going to be successful on Sunday, they needs to commit to keeping Mariotta upright and also recommitting to the run game. Mariotta was sacked 11 times in last Sunday’s 21-0 loss to Baltimore. The performance was surprising because the Titans had their top six offensive linemen back, including both tackles who’ve missed time because of injuries, and they had allowed only nine sacks combined over the first five games.
One step toward taking pressure off Mariotta would be finding a way to get running back Derrick Henry more involved. Henry came into this season having led the Titans with 744 yards rushing last season despite starting only two games, and he ran for 156 yards in their playoff victory last January. But the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner had a season-low seven carries for 21 yards in last week’s loss. Henry could be very helpful against a Chargers defense that is giving up 4.2 yards per carry.
Los Angeles has been firing on all cylinders offensively. Quarterback Philip Rivers has a 115.1 passer rating, which leads the AFC and is second in the NFL. A key to Rivers’ hot start is that he has been sacked only seven times.
Running back Melvin Gordon has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the past three weeks and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Rivers said the biggest key for this week has been on maintaining a familiar schedule despite being away from home.
The Chargers stayed in Cleveland after last Sunday’s win against the Browns and practiced at Baldwin-Wallace University.
“We kind of talked about it as a group. Whatever you normally do, make sure you do it. There’s going to be plenty more time to do more, but make sure you do it whether it be a rehab routine you have, something you do recovery or studying,” Rivers said.
Here are other things to watch during the NFL’s second straight week at Wembley Stadium:
As the season gets closer to the midway point both teams are looking to stay in prime postseason position. The Chargers, who haven’t been in the playoffs since 2013, are only a game behind Kansas City in the AFC West, but also in good early shape for a wild-card spot. The Titans are in a three-way tie for the top spot in the AFC South.
“We want to get this win and be able to rest up on a positive note. It always sucks if you were able to lose a game and then you have a bye week, then you have a long time to process and think about it. We want to come off on a good note.” Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said.
The Titans’ defense is allowing the third-fewest points in the league at 17.8 per game. They have also been very tough in the red zone, allowing only six touchdowns in 16 opportunities (37.5 percent).
SEARCHING FOR DAVIS
Tennessee wide receiver Corey Davis set career highs with nine receptions for 161 yards in a Sept. 30 win over Philadelphia. But Davis has only five receptions for 73 yards the past two weeks as the Titans have been kept out of the end zone.
PASS RUSH REBOUNDS
The Chargers had only eight sacks in the first four games, but have eight the past two weeks. They are still missing defensive end Joey Bosa (foot), but defensive tackle Corey Liuget’s return from a four-game league suspension has resulted in fewer double teams to Melvin Ingram and other players.
KEEP AN EYE ON
The Chargers kickers. Caleb Sturgis missed last Sunday’s game because of a quad injury, which meant Michael Badgley became the seventh kicker to make a field goal for the team since the start of last season. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said it is likely to come down to a game-time decision.
Sturgis’ future has been in doubt since he missed four extra points in the first five games.