Coach: Titans playing hard even as losses pile up
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
The Tennessee Titans have a losing record, just don't call them quitters.
Coach Mike Munchak said Monday how proud he was of his Titans and their rally from 17 points down to force overtime, saying the comeback attempt is a great testament to their character in the face of adversity. When Tennessee fell behind Arizona 34-17 with 6:50 left, most of the fans that turned out on a cold day headed for the exits.
Still, Munchak understands playing hard is not enough.
''The bottom line in this league is winning,'' Munchak said. ''We know that, and they know that. They still don't feel great about what happened in that game. We didn't win it. ... Two more opportunities is all we have, and we have to win two games.''
The Titans' 37-34 overtime loss to Arizona eliminated their thin postseason hopes missing the playoffs for a fifth straight year. It also was their third straight loss and eighth in 10 games, clinching a second straight losing record.
Now they need to win their final two games to avoid finishing 6-10 for the third time in four seasons with the last two under Munchak. Munchak said he fully expects the Titans to prepare and play their best because of the character he sees on his roster.
''So we'll play well, hopefully play smart enough to win football (games) these next two games,'' the coach said.
New president and CEO Tommy Smith plans to evaluate everyone from Munchak on down after the season. The Titans at least have a chance for a little payback Sunday in Jacksonville (4-10) before the season finale against Houston (2-12), who hasn't won since beating Tennessee in Week 2.
''They've added to our misery this year,'' Munchak said.
The Titans also have lost five straight at home for the first time since relocating to Tennessee in 1997. Munchak said they all know the Titans face further changes to reclaim their edge at home. Winning the final two games would help the coach's case that he deserves the final year on his contract to make those changes.
''It would definitely give me a stronger one I tell you that,'' Munchak said.
The Titans had every reason to give up after the Cardinals scored 21 straight taking a 34-17 lead with 6:50 left. Instead, they rallied with three straight scoring drives of 67, 87 and 54 yards - the last set up by a rare onside kick recovery in an area that the Titans had failed to execute in three other losses this season.
Munchak said he didn't know how many people were left in the stands at that time.
''We played that span of 4 minutes is about as good of football as we've probably played in a while ...,'' Munchak said. ''You score 17 points it shows it's all about making plays.''
The comeback attempt ended when Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted for the second time on the opening drive of overtime. The Cardinals kicked the winning field goal six plays later. But Fitzpatrick had a career-high 402 yards passing with four touchdown passes.
Tight end Delanie Walker said losing after the furious rally really hurt, and he promised the Titans will play hard to finish out this season.
''Nobody on this team wants to lose,'' Walker said. ''Just because we're not going to the playoffs, you don't throw the games away. You go out there and fight. We're going to fight for our coaches. We're going to fight for each other.''
Notes: Walker was named the Titans' Community Man of the Year on Monday for his work supporting Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and will be the team's finalist for the league-wide Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. Walker, who signed with Tennessee in March, connected with MADD following the death of his aunt and uncle Alice and Bryan Young hours after they watched Walker play in the Super Bowl in February. ''If I can stop one person from drinking and driving, I feel like I accomplished something,'' Walker said.
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