Munchak: Titans build confidence by beating Ravens
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
Mike Munchak has talked often about how he thinks Tennessee could do something special in his first season as head coach. His Titans finally showed why he's so confident in their potential with a thorough beating of the Baltimore Ravens in their home opener.
Now he's cautioning that his Titans haven't arrived yet by any means.
''We're a hard-working group. We're grinders. We're going to be here ready to work on Wednesday, and what the win helps you do is have more confidence in what you're doing,'' Munchak said Monday.
The Titans got a much-needed confidence boost with their 26-13 win over a big rival after opening the season with an ugly 16-14 loss at Jacksonville. This is a franchise that opened 0-6 before finishing 8-8 in 2009 and went 6-10 last season before owner Bud Adams decided to get rid of quarterback Vince Young, a move that was followed by coach Jeff Fisher leaving three weeks later.
Munchak also made big changes himself, bringing in new offensive and defensive coordinators. Tennessee signed Matt Hasselbeck to a three-year deal paying him $9 million this year to help the Titans compete in Munchak's first season.
The Titans rebounded Sunday with the offense holding the ball 35 minutes, 52 seconds - longer than in any game dating through the 2010 season, when they ranked last in time of possession. Hasselbeck, who didn't practice with Tennessee until Aug. 4 because of the labor deal, threw for 358 yards, the most yards by a Titans' quarterback against the Ravens and more than Tennessee had in a game last season.
Hasselbeck also is tutoring Jake Locker, the eighth pick overall in April's draft, and the 13-year veteran is showing how quickly he can pick up an offense even with a switch from the NFC to the AFC.
''Now two games in, just excited to see where he's at,'' Munchak said of Hasselbeck. ''The guy finds windows to deliver balls.''
The lone problem on offense is getting Chris Johnson going after his contract holdout. He ran for 54 yards against Baltimore on 23 carries and was booed by fans upset at his struggles fresh off signing his extension worth $53 million and $30 million guaranteed.
Johnson said he feels ready to play hard for a whole game, and Hasselbeck defended him.
''In fairness to him, he just got back. I know it'd be really tough for me if I just showed up a few weeks ago,'' Hasselbeck said.
Munchak had no problem going to the air with Baltimore focused on stopping Johnson and the run. Kenny Britt caught nine passes for 135 yards and a touchdown, just one of nine Titans to catch a pass from Hasselbeck. The veteran even found fullback Quinn Johnson for a 13-yard completion on fourth-and-1 as the Titans nearly ran out the clock to seal the victory.
Sure, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman would love to run the ball, but Munchak won't stick with something that isn't working quite the way they want yet.
''At least we're having success in one area right now in a big way. Everyone wants to be balanced, but hey, we'll take what we can get,'' Munchak said.
On defense, cornerback Cortland Finnegan set the tone early on defense, knocking balls loose from receivers with big hits and tipping away three passes, including one to teammate Jason McCourty for one of three turnovers forced. Tennessee also hit Joe Flacco eight times, including three sacks, and they smothered the Ravens in giving up 229 yards total offense.
That's the same Finnegan who walked out of training camp at the end of the first week unhappy over talks to extend his own contract. Teammates voted him the defensive captain, and Munchak said the feisty cornerback has been the perfect pro since the first week of camp.
''He came out hitting and knocking balls loose,'' Munchak said. ''For a defense especially, that's contagious in a big way. They wall want to make a play, then they see what he's doing.''
In case his Titans need a reminder of how quickly a team's fortunes can change, Munchak can cite the Ravens. Baltimore went from an impressive 35-7 win over Pittsburgh in its opener to a humbling loss in Tennessee a week later.
Team officials are doing what they can to excite fans, lighting up LP Field and a nearby bridge starting Monday night as part of a weeklong ''Code Blue'' with Denver (1-1) visiting Sunday. Tennessee is home for four of the next six games.
Notes: Munchak said he expects starting safety Chris Hope to practice this week but his strength in his shoulder will determine if he plays against Denver.
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