NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Starting off with an 0-2 record after finishing last season as the top seed in the AFC wasn't the way the Tennessee Titans expected things to go.
It's not quite time to hit the panic button, especially considering that the AFC South collectively has one win after eight games. The problem for Tennessee, however, is there are re-occurring problems that have played a role in each loss.
Here's a look at four areas where the Titans need to show improvement to keep the losses from stacking up:
Defense allowing explosive plays
The 21-20 loss to the New York Giants in the season opener was set up by two big plays in almost two minutes. Giants running back Saquon Barkley broke off a 68-yard run, then punched it into the end zone from 4 yards out two plays later.
Barkley found a lane when Titans cornerback Kristian Fulton was trying to avoid a block and outran safety Amani Hooker's angle before racing down the field. Safety Kevin Byard managed to track Barkley down and push him out of bounds.
The second score came two plays into the Giants' next possession on a 65-yard pass play from quarterback Daniel Jones to wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Fulton was covering Shepard on the backside of the play but got caught looking at Jones as the receiver broke upfield. Jones unleashed a bomb that went over Fulton's head into Shepard's arms.
Last week's 41-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills featured another big play allowed. Receiver Stefon Diggs torched the Titans for a 46-yard touchdown as he turned rookie cornerback Tre Avery around and broke to the deep post.
"Sometimes it is just losing one-on-ones," Byard said of the explosive plays the defense is allowing. "Some of it is tackling. It's a multitude of things. We have to get those corrected because if we don't give up explosive plays, we could be a really good defense."
No bona fide pass-catching threat
Both the Giants and Bills were unafraid to have their defensive backs in one-on-one matchups against the Titans' pass-catchers. Both teams stacked the box heavily to keep running back Derrick Henry from breaking off his signature long runs.
As teams continue to load the box, more one-on-one matchups will arise.
"I always take one-on-ones personal," rookie receiver Treylon Burks said. "It just shows that they got more faith in their guy holding me one on one."
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill managed to spread the ball around, especially to the rookies -- Burks and Kyle Philips. Philips led the team in targets (9), receptions (6) and yards (66) in the season opener. Burks was targeted six times against the Bills and caught four passes for a team-leading 47 yards.
Someone needs to step up and make opposing defenses pay for using most of their resources to stop the rushing attack. Burks has shown potential to do so, but it could be some time before his production expands.
Pedestrian rushing attack
Henry has a total of 107 rushing yards through two games. He finished with 82 yards on 21 carries against the Giants and then 13 carries for 25 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo. His longest run this season is just 18 yards.
So what is happening?
The Giants and Bills found ways to get to Henry before he can get to the line of scrimmage. Of his 31 carries, Henry has been hit at or behind the line of scrimmage 16 times according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"It just takes all 11 for us to be better in the run game," Henry said. "I wasn't as good as I needed to be last week, and we all have to be better collectively. We've had some bad plays that we know we can be better at, I can be better. It's all about holding each other accountable. This just isn't our standard at all."
Henry's yards per carry average (1.9) against the Bills was the fourth-lowest average he's had in a game in which he had 10 or more carries.
Despite the struggles, Titans coach Mike Vrabel feels the running game can be salvaged.
"We have a lot of confidence in our run game," Vrabel said. "We have a lot of confidence in our runner. We just have to make sure now that we're all on the same page, that we're blocking things the right way."
Special teams struggles
The areas for improvement don't stop on offense and defense. Special teams have had issues as well.
The biggest hiccup came in the season opener when kicker Randy Bullock missed a 47-yard field goal that would have won the game. Sure, the game shouldn't have come down to Bullock's field goal, but it did.
The punt returner situation is currently in flux as well. Philips' first NFL return went for 46 yards against the Giants. However, Philips muffed a punt that was recovered at the Titans' 11-yard line later in the game.
Philips unsuccessfully fielded a punt against the Bills that was recovered on Tennessee's 20-yard line which resulted in a 37-yard field goal to give Buffalo a 27-7 lead, and Hooker muffed a punt later in the game, but it was recovered by the Titans.
"We’re in the process of going through who is going to be back there," special teams coach Craig Aukerman said. "We have to get back to the fundamentals of getting squared up to the ball having our elbows in and watching it through. I gotta do a better job coaching it."