Titans try to regroup after missed opportunity
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
The Tennessee Titans are trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces after adding another disappointing first to their resume.
Instead of getting a win to stay close in the playoff chase, the Titans turned in a familiar-looking flat performance against Jacksonville.
It was reminiscent of last season's effort against Indianapolis when Tennessee became the first team to lose to the previously winless Colts. This time, the Titans became the first team to lose to the Jaguars in Jacksonville this season.
Now they have to find motivation for their final five games of the season starting Sunday when they host the Houston Texans (10-1).
Coach Mike Munchak is taking the approach that anything is possible until the NFL tells the Titans they're officially out of contention for the team's first postseason berth since 2008.
''Other teams are struggling a lot like we are,'' Munchak said Monday.
''No doubt we made it very hard on ourselves to be real excited at this point,'' he said. ''We have to find a way to beat a great football team this weekend at home. So we got our hands full. We'll worry about this week first because like you always say because that's all you can control, and hopefully a big win in this game will change our options with the last four.''
The AFC may be jumbled, but the Titans find themselves tied with three other teams at 4-7 and trailing Indianapolis (7-4), Pittsburgh (6-5), Cincinnati (6-5) and Miami (5-6) for the final two wild cards. The Titans had their chance to put themselves in the middle of that mix only to make a handful of mistakes in the 24-19 loss to Jacksonville.
Munchak made sure his Titans watched the film Monday to see all the plays they could have made but didn't. They went late enough looking at the film that Munchak's usual afternoon news conference was moved from the team auditorium to their indoor practice field.
The Titans did many things right. They outgained Jacksonville 360-321 in total offense, won the time of possession and even had seven sacks - most in a game since Sept. 7, 2008, also against the Jaguars.
But five times the Titans got to the Jacksonville 24 or closer only to settle for field goals. Rob Bironas was four of five on his field goal attempts, missing a 42-yarder, and the defense also gave up eight plays of 21 yards or longer.
Nate Washington let a defender get an arm in to break up a would-be touchdown pass late in the third quarter and also failed to get both feet in for a catch on the sideline on another drive. Cook dropped a pass that hit his hands, and Damian Williams thought he had a 15-yard TD catch early in the fourth quarter overturned by an official ruling his second foot out.
''We got to regroup,'' tight end Jared Cook said. ''We got five weeks left so we got to do our best. In terms of inconsistency, I don't know. We're a lot better offense than this I know. I know we're a better team than this ... You can only do what you can do. I mean it's only five weeks left. You can only do what you can these five weeks and make it the best season you can.''
A defense criticized heavily all season forced Jacksonville three-and-out to turn the ball back over to the offense with 3:28 trailing 21-19 when Jake Locker threw too early to Cook on a ball tipped by a linebacker to Jaguars safety Dwight Lowery for an interception. Munchak said Locker played well and helped keep other drives alive by running.
''If you want to be in the playoffs, those are the drives you have to finish,'' Munchak said.
A 51-20 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4 had owner Bud Adams putting the entire franchise on notice, and the Titans bounced back with a big win at Miami. This team has not won three straight since Munchak's first month as head coach last season. And it won't be easy to do the final month of this season with road trips to the Colts (7-4) and Green Bay (7-4).
''Reality's kind of set in for a lot of guys,'' Cook said. ''It's just tough. Like I said, we know we're a lot better team than this, and we're not putting that out on film at all. So the best thing you can do is pick up your head and move on.''
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker