Streak ends but Titans still tied atop AFC South
Mike Munchak looks at Tennessee’s schedule and sees
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
”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
”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
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.