NWI

Eleven games into the 2021 season, and the only things the Tennessee Titans have had trouble beating are sub-.500 teams and injuries.

Tennessee has been hit particularly hard at receiver. Eight different Titans receivers have caught a pass this season — only the Miami Dolphins have had more — and the team has used 10 wideouts this year. That figure includes Racey McMath, who played against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 26 but has since had a lengthy stay on injured reserve, and Mason Kinsey, who played against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 24 but didn’t catch a pass.

In Sunday’s 22-13 loss to the Houston Texans, both A.J. Brown and Marcus Johnson left with an injury, and the Titans are facing the prospect of going into New England to play the Patriots in Week 12 with a potential receiver group of Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Dez Fitzpatrick, Cody Hollister and Kinsey.

That’s not particularly great news for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, as the Patriots have the No. 3 overall defense in the NFL. They’ve allowed the sixth-fewest receiving yards per game (229.6), and they’re tied for the third-fewest touchdowns allowed to receivers (13).

“Obviously, it hurts,” Tannehill said of not having his full complement of receivers. “You want to have your guys out there that you’re used to playing with and you’ve got reps with, but that’s where we’re at right now in the season. It’s been a tough season for us injury-wise. Guys have stepped up and took advantage of some opportunities, and there’s some things we still have to do to work through with that. Hopefully we can get our guys back, and then the guys that are just starting to get reps, that we can get more reps with them.”

Brown’s initial chest X-rays on Monday came back negative, but the 24-year-old underwent more X-rays later in the day. Those results should be known sometime this week, and a potential rib injury hasn’t been fully ruled out.

If Brown can go Sunday in New England, that’s obviously best-case scenario for Tennessee. If he can’t play, then that puts even more pressure on a dwindling Titans’ run game and Tannehill, who threw four interceptions Sunday against Houston.

While Westbrook-Ikhine had a career game against the Texans — he caught a career-high seven receptions for 107 yards — he’s not exactly a WR1. Fitzpatrick (three receptions, 35 yards, TD) and Rogers (four receptions, 41 yards) are both solid wideouts as well, but they’re not exactly who you’d want going against New England’s secondary, which leads the NFL with 18 interceptions and ranks third in the NFL in total takeaways (21).

The Patriots have four defensive backs with multiple interceptions including cornerback J.C. Jackson (six), safety Adrian Phillips (four), safety Kyle Dugger (three) and safety Devin McCourty (two).

“It’s hard,” Westbrook-Ikhine said of being shorthanded. “I mean, you have three guys out there trying to get back into a game and you have to throw the ball, so you have to run a lot of routes. So, it tests our conditioning. That’s something going forward you just have to work on and be ready for the opportunity again.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_

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