Tennessee Titans

Rating the Rumor: Eagles OC Frank Reich a 'possibility' for Titans

082817_reich_on_foles.jpg
NBC Sports Philadelphia

Rating the Rumor: Eagles OC Frank Reich a 'possibility' for Titans

Just when it seemed the Eagles might make it through the 2018 coaching carousel relatively unscathed, a new rumor links offensive coordinator Frank Reich to the Titans’ vacancy.

Then again, due to the timing of the Titans’ head coaching search, they may not even have the opportunity to talk to Reich at all.

Reich was first named “a possibility” for the Titans’ job by longtime beat writer Terry McCormick. However, because the organization did not request an interview during the first week of the NFL playoffs, by rule, a meeting cannot occur until after the Eagles’ season is finished. That could be as many as three weeks from now, depending on the outcome of the conference championship on Sunday.

Ideally, the Titans will have filled the job by then.

Reich himself shot down the story on Tuesday, though that was easy given the circumstances, with the Titans unable to reach out at present.

“Right now, myself, our staff, are interested in one thing only, so, that's all,” Reich said. “I have no time (for that). When I tell you I have no time for anything to consider anything else other than how we're preparing a game plan to beat the Vikings, that's really all we're concerned about.”

If the Titans are a little late to the game, that’s because a somewhat surprising postseason run gave Mike Mularkey two additional weeks of life. Once eliminated from the playoffs over the weekend, the sides parted ways, at a time when most front offices were already finalizing coaching searches. Of the seven clubs with openings, two are filled, and three more are reportedly spoken for.

In other words, the Titans are left with a smaller pool of candidates to choose from. That could help explain why Reich could be gaining some momentum after there was no reported interest in the first round of coaching interviews.

While Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo were among the star candidates this offseason, Reich flew under the radar. However, the reality is he probably warranted more consideration. From that standpoint, the Titans’ supposed interest makes sense.

Some observers may even see a potential Reich departure as beneficial for the Eagles. DeFilippo’s contract is up at the end of the season, and it’s believed if he isn’t hired as the head coach of either the Titans or Cardinals, he’ll leave for an offensive coordinator job regardless. If Reich goes, one of the league’s bright, young assistants could move into his role.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, it probably is.

DeFilippo is reportedly still in the running for the Cardinals job (for which the Eagles can grant permission for a second interview next week even should they advance), and may be ready to move on regardless, to someplace where the title of offensive coordinator comes with play-calling duties. As for Reich, his availability is largely tied to whether or not the Eagles make it to the Super Bowl, unless the Titans were willing to wait until February to have so much as a conversation.

The Titans are already lining up interviews with other candidates, notably Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel. And should the Eagles lose on Sunday, you can certainly understand why any of Reich, Schwartz or DeFilippo would be on the short list. Yet, for the moment, their candidacy for this particular job appears to be in direct proportion to the outcome of the NFC Championship game.

Rating the rumor: Sorry, Titans – you snooze, you lose

Patriots reach 7th straight AFC title game

usa-tom-brady-patriots.jpg
USA Today Images

Patriots reach 7th straight AFC title game

BOX SCORE

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady passed for three touchdowns and 337 yards, and the New England Patriots cruised past the Tennessee Titans 35-14 on Saturday night to advance to their seventh consecutive AFC championship game.

New England (14-3) will host the winner of Sunday's divisional matchup between Jacksonville and Pittsburgh.

It was Brady's 10th career postseason game with at least three TD tosses, moving him past Joe Montana for the most in NFL history. James White caught a touchdown pass and ran for another, and Danny Amendola had 11 catches for 112 yards.

The Titans (10-8) took an early 7-0 lead, but New England scored 35 straight points to take control.

Marcus Mariota completed 22 of 37 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but was under duress for most of the second half. He was sacked eight times, a Patriots playoff record. New England also held Derrick Henry to just 28 yards rushing on 12 carries.

New England's victory came on the heels of a week filled with drama following reports of turmoil involving Brady, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft.

None of that showed on the field Saturday.

"It definitely sounds crazy. But you have to keep ignoring the noise on the outside, just keep working every time you walk into the building and just keep grinding," tight end Rob Gronkowski said of how his team handled the media firestorm this week.

The Titans came back from an 18-point deficit in the second half to beat the Chiefs 22-21 in the wild-card round last week - the largest comeback on the road in the Super Bowl era. But the Patriots didn't give them a chance for an encore.

Leading 14-7, the Patriots stretched their lead to 14 just before halftime thanks to a trio of careless penalties on the Titans.

Tennessee initially forced a three-and-out, but gave up a first down via a fourth-and-5 neutral zone infraction on Brynden Trawick before New England's punt attempt.

Armed with a new set of downs, Brady went to work moving the Patriots down the field with a steady diet of short passes. The Titans helped along the way with illegal contact and unnecessary roughness penalties. It eventually culminated in a 4-yard TD pass from Brady to Chris Hogan in the back of the end zone that made it 21-7.

Brady threw a short shovel pass to White, who ran it in from the 5-yard line to make it 7-7 early in the second quarter.

The Patriots appeared to have a touchdown three plays earlier, when Dion Lewis caught a pass from Brady and was tackled by Wesley Woodyard at the 19. Lewis landed on top of the defender, then got up and continued to the end zone.

The officials initially ruled that he had never been down and called it a touchdown. But replays showed Lewis' butt hit the ground at the 19.

Corey Davis made a one-handed catch on a 15-yard pass from Mariota in the corner of the end zone to give the Titans a 7-0 lead. Mariota had a pair of 11-yard runs to help set up the score.

Davis added an 11-yard TD reception with 1:55 left in the game - and the Titans' season.

Injuries
Titans: Right tackle Jack Conklin walked off on his own power after injuring a knee in the first quarter. He did not return. ... Tight end Jonnu Smith was carted off in the third quarter with a right leg injury.

Patriots: Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle left the with a knee injury early in the third quarter. ... Cornerback Jonathan Jones was helped off the field late in the fourth quarter.

Unforced errors
The Titans had 85 penalties in the regular season - the second-fewest in the NFL.

They were flagged 10 times for 62 yards on Saturday, just the second time they had 10 or more this season.

Moving on up
Gronkowski finished with six catches for 81 yards and touchdown. It was his 10th career postseason TD. He's tied with five others for third all-time. But it's the most for a tight end.

Gronk also moved into second all-time for a tight end with 835 postseason receiving yards. He passed Keith Jackson, and only Dallas Clark is ahead of him.

Up Next
The Patriots will play the winner of Sunday's matchup between the Jaguars and Steelers in the AFC championship game.

Divisional round predictions as NFL playoffs heat up

Divisional round predictions as NFL playoffs heat up

Derrick Gunn makes his divisional round predictions.

Falcons at Eagles, Saturday, 4:35 p.m. on NBC
The defending NFC champion Falcons backed their way into the playoffs, and then last weekend made an impressive postseason showing on the road against the Rams. But this isn't the high-powered Falcons' offense that averaged 33 points per game in 2016. In 2017, with basically the same personnel, it struggled to average 22 points. But the difference this season, the Falcons' defense has played better. The team's front seven is on the small side, but fast. The secondary is aggressive and well versed in man-to-man coverage. 

The jury is split on Nick Foles and whether he can handle the postseason pressure or not. The Falcons' D is not stout against the run. The Eagles have the necessary stable of backfield horses and need to establish a ground game early and stick to it. Go north and south against the Falcons, not lateral, which plays to their defensive speed. Doug Pederson needs to shorten up the passing game to keep the heat off Foles. Jim Schwartz's guys up front have to get to Matt Ryan to make him as uncomfortable as possible and keep Ryan from finding Julio Jones.

When the Falcons have scored 20 or more points this season, they're 11-0 (including the playoff win over the Rams). When they've been held to 17 points or less, they're 0-6. The Linc will be rocking. The Eagles feel disrespected that they're the underdogs. This should be a knockdown drag-out brawl. When the dust settles, look for the Eagles to still be standing.

Pick: Eagles, 23-17

Titans at Patriots, Saturday, 8:15 p.m. on CBS
An impressive wild-card comeback win by the Titans at Kansas City. The Patriots are heavy favorites but don't underestimate the fight in the Titans. They beat Jacksonville twice this season and pulled off a shocker over the Chiefs. Titans RB DeMarco Murray will miss a third straight game because of an MCL tear, but Derrick Henry is capable of a heavy workload. Henry ran for 156 yards on 23 carries vs. K.C. Tennessee can run on the Patriots' 29th-ranked defense, but scoring is another matter. The Pats give up only 18.5 points per game. New England will be hard-pressed to find success trying to run against the Titans' fourth-ranked run defense, but that's OK because Tom Brady and his top-ranked offense live through the air. The Titans have been a great story, but the defending Super Bowl champs will write the final chapter to Tennessee's season.

Pick: Patriots

Jaguars at Steelers, Sunday, 1:05 p.m. on CBS
Back in Week 5 of the regular season, the Jaguars sent a message to the rest of the league that they were for real when they rolled over the Steelers — which included picking off five Ben Roethlisberger passes. After that embarrassment, the Steelers went on to win 10 of their final 11 games. I can't wait to see Antonio Brown back on the field, going against arguably the best cornerback tandem in the league in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Jacksonville's rugged second-ranked defense will have to be at the top of its game to slow down the Steelers' offense. Blake Bortles is a limited quarterback and that will be the Jags' demise against the blitzing Steelers. The Jags' defense can only keep the Steelers' O from scoring for so long, and without getting much help from its offense, Jacksonville will have a long disappointing flight home.

Pick: Steelers

Saints at Vikings, Sunday, 4:40 p.m. on FOX
New Orleans has come a long way since its season-opening loss to the Vikings, but so has Minnesota. What's not to like about the Vikings' No. 1 defense (275.9 yards per game allowed; No. 2 vs. the run at 83.6 yards per game; and No. 1 in scoring defense at 15.8 points per game)? Drew Brees will need RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to loosen up the Vikings' defense in the run and pass game. Both RBs tallied over 1,500 yards of total offense this season. Vikings QB Case Keenum has had a phenomenal season — 67.6 completion percentage, 22 TDs, seven INTs. The Vikings' defensive front will apply the pressure, but Brees has been dropped only 21 times this season. So many scenarios could play out in this one, but the Vikings are tough to beat in their home (7-1 home record). They will successfully defend their turf.

Pick: Vikings