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Pass protection a big issue in Titans' loss to Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Tennessee Titans let their quarterbacks get beaten up in their 33-16 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

Rookie Marcus Mariota was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a right knee injury. He took three sacks before he left. Titans running back Antonio Andrews was responsible for the Jamie Collins sack that knocked Mariota out of the game.

"Just miscommunication," Andrews said. "I thought I heard one call, it was another. They changed it last minute."

Zach Mettenberger was taken down two times in a relief effort.

Even when the Titans did their job up front, things didn’t generally go well.

Mettenberger got great protection in the fourth quarter on a first-and-10 from the Patriots' 36-yard line. But he threw short of Harry Douglas into double coverage deep down the right side into the end zone. Douglas didn’t try to come back to get it and cornerback Malcolm Butler picked it off.

Mike Mularkey prioritized protection when he took the interim job on Nov. 3. The Titans have given up 10 sacks in their last two games, however. Rookie center Andy Gallik was pulled during this one in favor of veteran Joe Looney.

What it means: The Titans are 3-11, rank miles away from the defending Super Bowl champs and could be without their starting QB for two AFC South games to finish the season.

Ouch: The Titans didn’t put Mariota back in the game after his right knee injury, a move that coach Mike Mularkey said was precautionary. We’ll find out more about the extent of the injury and his chances to play in the final two games shortly.

Who's he? Patriots running back Joey Iosefa, signed by the team off the practice squad on Saturday, ran 13 times for 52 yards. He was originally a seventh-round draft pick by Tampa Bay out of Hawaii.

One highlight: Tight end Delanie Walker took a short Mettenberger throw and worked magic with it. He bounced off safety Patrick Chung (who suffered a hip injury), scooted out of an ankle tackle, hurdled another defender along the sideline and stiff-armed defensive back Jordan Richards. It earned Walker a 57-yard touchdown.

What’s next: Next Sunday the Titans host the Houston Texans, who’ve got a mess at quarterback because of injuries. The Texans won 20-6 in their first meeting in Houston in Week 8.