Streak ends but Titans still tied atop AFC South

Mike Munchak looks at Tennessee’s schedule and sees

opportunities.

Yes, the Titans’ three-game winning streak is over, and they

still need to get Chris Johnson untracked. Special teams needs some

fixing, and cutting down on penalties also will be a focus after a

38-17 loss in Pittsburgh.

But the Titans enter the bye week 3-2 and tied atop the AFC

South with the Houston Texans. When they return, the Titans play

three straight games at home, where they are 2-0.

”That’s exactly what we have to hang our hat on now,” Munchak

said Monday.

”We hoped we sat here 4-1 saying that. We didn’t. So yeah, I

think the fact that at home we played well both times. At home we

won both our games. We know how much advantage it is for us, and

that’s something we’ll definitely be shooting for. Long-range plan

… we lost our first game of the second quarter, and now we have

to make up for it by winning all three, the next three at home. So

we’ll feel a lot better when we do that.”

The best part of that pending homestand is that Tennessee starts

by hosting the Texans (3-2) on Oct. 23 followed by a visit from

Indianapolis (0-5) and then Cincinnati (3-2). Tennessee and Munchak

set winning the AFC South as the team’s top goal, and that remains

very possible for a franchise that hasn’t won the division since

2008.

”You’re always going to keep focus on your division and what

it’s going to take to win it,” Munchak said. ”Winning every

Sunday takes care of that. But you’re also going to keep an eye on

what’s going on within the division, and we know we’re playing the

Texans our next division game that we play. … We’re in position

to have a big game coming up in two weeks against them.”

First, the Titans need to work on that run game. They rank last

in the NFL for a third straight week. Chris Johnson opened with a

21-yard run but finished with only 51 yards on 14 carries. They are

averaging 66.6 yards rushing. Under the new collective bargaining

agreement, Munchak can’t do what teams did when he played and go

into pads for most of the week.

Instead, the Titans will practice Tuesday before getting the

rest of the week off. They won’t return until Monday for an extra

day of work before focusing on the Texans. Munchak said they all

know the run game must get better. He fended off a question on

whether Johnson, who held out all preseason before getting a $53

million extension, is less aggressive hitting the holes.

Munchak said Johnson is running the way he runs and isn’t going

to change his style. The coach said Johnson needs to play better

and the Titans need to block better. But Munchak is not considering

any lineup changes just yet.

”He’s having 50 yards a game. That’s not going to cut it. He’s

a great player, and he needs to play great. Right now, that’s not

happening,” Munchak said.

Johnson left the game with a few minutes left due to some

tightness in his hamstring, but Munchak said the running back would

be ready to play Sunday if they didn’t have a bye. Johnson said

going into the bye with the loss is tough.

”We have to think about this loss for two weeks straight, just

until we can get back on the field and get a victory,” Johnson

said after the game.

The Titans also must improve their discipline. They were

penalized nine times for 70 yards, and two early penalties helped

turn first-and-goal on the opening drive into a field goal. A

block-in-the-back penalty wiped out Cortland Finnegan’s 30-yard

return for a touchdown on the punt blocked by Tim Shaw. The Titans

later scored off that drive, but burned three more minutes off the

clock.

Special teams had problems, too. Yes, the Titans recovered an

onside kick and blocked that punt, but they also gave up a 52-yard

kickoff return after taking their lone lead of the game and watched

Steelers punter Dan Sepulveda complete a 33-yard pass over the

middle on fourth-and-5.

Finnegan was near the line before turning to run back downfield

to set up for the return. Munchak wouldn’t say which player blew

the assignment protecting against the fake but said it wasn’t

Finnegan, the defensive captain.

”We’ve just got to get more consistent at a lot of things we’re

doing,” the coach said.