FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A successful rushing attack has typically been the main ingredient for wins for the Tennessee Titans over the past four seasons since Mike Vrabel became the coach.
The Titans (8-4) managed to pick up 270 rushing yards against the New England Patriots (8-4), but they still fell 36-13 on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Turnovers proved to be the biggest factor.
"You kill the momentum," Ryan Tannehill said. "I felt like every time we touched it, we were doing good things. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot a couple times by putting it on the ground."
Tennessee's running backs accounted for three turnovers, with Dontrell Hilliard, D'Onta Foreman and Khari Blasingame each losing fumbles to dilute a day in which both Foreman (109 yards) and Hilliard (131 yards) went over the 100-yard rushing plateau.
By contrast, Derrick Henry, who was leading the NFL in rushing when he was lost for the season because of an injury, only lost two fumbles in 597 carries since the start of last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
In total, the Titans turned the ball over four times. Tannehill was intercepted for the 13th time this season, when he tried to find Cody Hollister on a tight window throw while on the run on fourth-and-goal from the Patriots' 2-yard line. A touchdown would have capped off the Titans' 14-play, 73-yard drive by closing the gap to 26-20.
J.C. Jackson's interception in the end zone gave New England the ball at its 20-yard line instead.
The eight-minute drive went for nothing, and the Patriots marched 46 yards over five minutes and 50 seconds to extend their lead to 29-13, thanks to a 52-yard field goal by Nick Folk.
The massive uptick in turnovers has led to consecutive losses for the Titans, who fell out of sole possession of the top seed in the AFC and are now tied for second with the Patriots -- who now own the head-to-head tiebreaker -- behind the Baltimore Ravens (8-3).
Tennessee has now given the ball to the opposing team nine times over the past two weeks. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the past two games are the first time the Titans have turned the ball over at least four times in back-to-back weeks since 2015.
The Titans' defense has also struggled in the turnover category. During Tennessee's six-game win streak that was snapped in Week 11, Tennessee's defense forced 11 turnovers. They have not been able to register any takeaways over the past two weeks.
"We didn't get any turnovers," Jeffery Simmons said. "We've got to play better. I mean, we talk about that all the time, that we have to get the ball to our offense. We need to get them good field position or whatever it takes. We have to help our offense get going. We just got to play better on defense, create turnovers."
The need to create turnovers was also felt by Titans safety Kevin Byard, who tried to generate a turnover on one of New England's chunk plays. Byard undercut the route to make a play on the ball and avoid getting a pass interference call.
Patriots receiver Jakobi Meyers exhibited great focus on the football and snagged the ball out of the air that went past Byard's outstretched hand as he fell to the ground. The spectacular play accounted for 38 yards.
"I just have to make those plays, no excuses," Byard said. "It's frustrating that I haven't been able to get turnovers. I pride myself on that, and, obviously, I want to get a bunch of turnovers. At the end of the day, I have to get turnovers. I understand that, and it's my responsibility to go out there and get turnovers. It's a team thing. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get any of those."
Tennessee will get a chance to try to get healthy during its bye this week, which comes at a truly ideal time. After placing A.J. Brown on injured reserve Saturday, the Titans elevated Hollister to the active roster from the practice squad. Newly signed cornerback Buster Skrine and defensive lineman Kevin Strong suited up for the banged-up Titans on Sunday as well.
The three additional players made it 86 that Tennessee has rostered on game day. That's a new NFL record. The "next man up" approach the Titans have taken on this season can only go so far.
The number of players the Titans have on injured reserve goes 17 deep and reads like a "Who's Who" among NFL players with Henry, Brown, Julio Jones and Bud Dupree highlighting the list.
After resting on the bye week, Tennessee will host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Nissan Stadium on Dec 12. In the meantime, the Titans can take time to reflect on how to generate more turnovers and keep from giving the ball away.