Munchak preaching calm after ugly Titans’ loss

Mike Munchak is facing an early season test as the Titans’ new
coach.

He’s preaching calm and not panic after a performance in which
Tennessee could not have looked much more inept on offense.

His message is simple: One week does not make a season.

The coach said Monday the Titans just have to get back to work
coming off their 16-14 loss at Jacksonville. The Titans were lucky
to be as close as they were; the Jaguars dominated both time of
possession and total yards. Nonetheless, the Titans had the ball in
the final minute with a chance to kick a winning field goal.

”They had yards and they had time, but they only had 16 points.
You know what? You hold a team to 16 points on the road at their
place, that’s pretty good football,” Munchak said. ”As much as it
wasn’t pretty, it was still effective football. And if we’re doing
what we should do on offense, we have a good chance to win that
thing.”

The challenge only stiffens as the Titans and Munchak must clean
up mistakes on offense, eliminate penalties and shore up the run
defense by Sunday when they host the Baltimore Ravens in their home
opener. Munchak said the Ravens are similar to Jacksonville – they
have a physical defense and a determination to run the ball.

One of the Titans’ priorities is to address the mistakes on
offense. The problems were plentiful for new offensive coordinator
in Chris Palmer. Part of the problem was quarterback Matt
Hasselbeck, who missed open receivers. Chris Johnson, whose holdout
ended about 10 days before the opener, was ineffective.

The balanced offense Munchak wants never materialized: The
Titans ran the ball only 13 times while throwing 34 passes.

Tennessee held the ball only 20 minutes, 22 seconds, an ugly
start for a team that ranked last in the NFL in time of possession
in 2010. Hasselbeck threw for 263 yards, but the veteran
quarterback signed to mentor rookie Jake Locker overthrew several
receivers and was victimized by some drops. The Titans rushed for
only 43 yards.

Left tackle Michael Roos said players seemed to take turns
making mistakes.

”If you stretch them over five plays, then you have five bad
plays,” Roos said. ”I think that mixed with the fact that we in
anyway couldn’t get any rhythm going, then you start pressing and
try to make something happen. It’s usually not a good way to
play.”

Johnson had just nine rushes for 24 yards, though he did reel
off a 9-yard run in the fourth quarter when the offense finally
showed signs of life. Munchak said they had hoped to get Johnson
15-18 carries, though he isn’t willing to blame the three-time Pro
Bowler’s contract holdout for the loss when so much else went
wrong.

The Titans also hurt themselves with the kind of mistakes they
didn’t make in the preseason, racking up seven penalties for 60
yards. Their best scoring chance of the first half came when Marc
Mariani returned a punt to the Jaguars’ 34 – but the play was
negated by an illegal block above the waist. A holding call
followed a play later, and the Titans went three-and-out.

When the Titans couldn’t stop the run last year they finished
the season 6-10. Getting bigger and stronger on defense didn’t help
much in Week 1, they still gave up 163 yards rushing to
Jacksonville.

But Munchak isn’t ready to change his approach yet.

”You don’t throw everything away after one game because certain
things didn’t work out the way you hoped, so I think you just get
back to work on Wednesday and know this is a good football team
that won a big game in their division, and we have quite a history
with these guys,” Munchak said. ”So I don’t think it’ll be hard
to get the team real excited about what they’re facing.”

Notes: Munchak said S Chris Hope (shoulder), DE William Hayes
(shoulder) and WR Damian Williams (hamstring) were having MRIs to
determine the extent of their injuries, but the coach didn’t
anticipate any of the three missing significant time.

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