Titans show off ground game for opening victory
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
The Tennessee Titans insist they will be able to throw the ball often if that's what it takes to win this season. They just happened to show they can stick to the ground pretty well, too.
They won their first opener since 2010 by running 42 times, chewing up the clock and wearing down the Steelers for a surprising 16-9 win in Pittsburgh. Left tackle Michael Roos said Monday the Titans did exactly what they needed to do.
''You want to build the confidence as much as you can knowing that we're capable of doing that and knowing if we need to we can lean on that and do it again,'' Roos said.
The Titans only ran for 112 yards with Chris Johnson getting the bulk of the work with 25 carries for 70 yards, grinding out for a 2.8-yard average. His longest carry went for 11 yards, but that came in the fourth quarter as the Titans took control. Tennessee's best drive was in the second quarter when they ran 11 of 12 plays and held the ball for nearly 7 minutes.
Coach Mike Munchak said the Titans feel they can adjust to whatever type of defense they face.
''Next week it may be having to pass 40 times rather than run it 40 times, so we feel we have the people to do it either way,'' Munchak said.
The Titans simply played keepaway with the offense holding the ball for 34 minutes, 1 second. This franchise ranked last in the NFL with an average time of possession of 27 minutes, 18 seconds last season, and won time of possession only four times in 2012. They hadn't held the ball this long since beating Baltimore on Sept. 18, 2011.
All the rest helped a Tennessee defense that added six veteran free agents be much more aggressive on defense, sacking Ben Roethlisberger five times. Munchak noted his defense played only 53 plays.
''That's probably the fewest plays they've played in a long time,'' Munchak said. ''You saw how fresh (Jurrell) Casey and (Derrick) Morgan and our linebackers were as that game wore on. They were able to rush and rush well.''
Casey and linebacker Zach Brown had two sacks apiece. The defense held Pittsburgh to 32 yards rushing on the ground, 195 yards total, and the Steelers' lone offensive points came with 1:23 left in the game a welcome change for a unit that allowed a franchise-worst 471 points in 2012.
''That's what we're going to try to do all season long and keep fighting and not let the past keep up with us and turn this thing around for ourselves,'' Casey said.
The Titans wound up nearly balanced on offense with 125 yards passing. Jake Locker threw only 20 passes and was sacked once with no interceptions in a game where he was more of a manager. Munchak insists he is very confident in his quarterback being able to throw away and win when needed. He said Locker had pass-run options against Pittsburgh and went with the run at times.
And Munchak heard no complaints from anyone wanting more touches.
''That's when you find out your team's growing up,'' Munchak said.
Now they cap a two-game road trip to start the season with a visit to Houston, the AFC South champ the past two seasons. Casey said after the game in Pittsburgh that the Titans would go to Houston and hurt the Texans. On Monday, he said he would hold his tongue for a couple days.
''We got a little swagger to us so far,'' Casey said. ''We have to keep on building.''
Notes: Munchak said RB Shonn Greene's right knee is a little sore and they need 48 hours to see how he heals up. ... RT David Stewart may be limited again in practice until Friday, but Munchak said he expects him to be available in Houston. ... Rookie LB Zaviar Gooden (ankle) is expected to practice Wednesday after missing much of the preseason.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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