NASHVILLE — For Kansas City coach Andy Reid, the decision on when Patrick Mahomes plays again is easy.
It's when the reigning NFL MVP is physically ready.
Mahomes has wanted back on the field since soon after dislocating his right kneecap Oct. 17 in a win at Denver. But the Chiefs (6-3) have gone 2-1 with Matt Moore. Combined with sights set on a fourth straight AFC West title, that makes it easier to think longer term than Sunday's kickoff on the road in Tennessee.
"We're not going to put him out there unless he is safe to do it," Reid said. "But he has to go through this work level and keep increasing it and see how he does. That's where we're at."
Titans cornerback Logan Ryan isn't sure if Mahomes or Moore will start, saying he won't "chase ghosts." He's preparing for the NFL's second-best passing offense, with the Chiefs averaging 300.7 yards a game no matter who's at quarterback. Ryan wants the Titans to get back to the defense that didn't allow a team to score more than 20 points through the first seven games.
"We got to go play our brand of defense against their brand of offense, and there will be some fireworks," Ryan said.
This is a crucial game for the Titans (4-5), who are coming off a 30-20 loss at Carolina. They can't wait until next week's bye to fix some of their offensive issues when they're mired at the bottom of the AFC South, where they're only two back of first-place Houston still with two to play against the Texans.
"We all have to have a sense of urgency," Titans running back Derrick Henry said. "We know what we're up against. We know what we have to do."
Ready and waiting
Moore threw for 275 yards and a TD in leading the Chiefs to a 26-23 win over Minnesota last week, and he's had at least 250 yards passing and a 100 or higher passer rating in what he called a wild couple of weeks.
"I've learned a lot," Moore said. "So what it means moving forward is that I have to be ready to go at all times and who knows what the future holds. In this league, you never know. I'm trying to be the best I can be every day and that is all."
Give it to Henry
The Titans have been shut out in the first half four times this season — all losses. A bigger issue in Carolina was that Henry ran only twice before halftime, though he still finished with 99 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns thanks to a big drive to open the third quarter.
Now Tennessee has another chance to run against a Chiefs' defense that ranks 29th against the run. Kansas City has allowed at least 180 yards rushing four times this season, though the Chiefs have held their last three opponents to 118 yards or fewer. Still, running Henry early and often would give the Titans a chance to get their offense back on track.
"We want to get him carries, get him going early, set the tone that way, and then play off of that," Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.
Reid vs. Titans
Only Bill Belichick has more wins than Reid among active coaches, yet Reid is 1-7 all-time against the Titans, including 0-4 with Philadelphia. He's 1-3 with the Chiefs, and his lone win came in 2013. Reid has lost three straight to two different Titans coaches. This will be his first game against Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who played his last two seasons in the NFL with Kansas City.
Clean up the mistakes
The Titans have hurt themselves more than the opponent has in their losses. Too often penalties have wiped out big gains, and they had three turnovers last week. They've also allowed an NFL-worst 38 sacks, and the combination of issues has made it tough to clean everything up.
"Eliminate the dumb things that we can control like the technique, the fundamental stuff," Tannehill said. "When it comes down to execution, just execute and we'll be in good shape."
The Chiefs are healing. Defensive end Frank Clark, who has missed two straight games with a neck issue, and cornerback Kendall Fuller, who has missed three games with an injured thumb, both returned to practice this week.
Titans center Ben Jones is working back from a concussion that kept him out of last week's game. But Tennessee is banged up. Four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has not been practicing after missing a game. Wide receiver Corey Davis also has missed two straight practices with an injured hip, and starting inside linebacker Jayon Brown (groin) has not practiced.