Titans eager to get their home-field edge back

The Tennessee Titans want their home-field advantage back.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray hopes they can turn back the clock

a bit to make it happen.

Gray has talked repeatedly about the good old times when

opposing offenses thought the Titans were pumping in noise so they

couldn’t hear. Now the Titans get their first chance Sunday to give

their fans something to cheer about in their home opener against

San Diego (1-1).

”When the defense is playing well, the fans are going to holler

and we got to get it back like we had it in the (late) 90s,” Gray

said Thursday. ”You know, `Hey, let’s get the crowd in it.’ Let’s

do the same thing and when we got into 2000 where the offense is

coming in, they say, `Oh, they pumping in noise,’ and really it’s

the crowd.”

Gray wants the Titans playing so well on defense that offenses

can’t hear each other and have to use hand signals and silent

counts. That gives the defense an energy boost and a chance to get

a jump off the ball.

”Then all of a sudden, the defensive ends get more sacks

because now the offensive tackle is not getting off on the snap

count,” Gray said.

In 1999 and 2000, the Titans had the likes of Jevon Kearse

terrorizing offensive tackles. Fred Miller was flagged repeatedly

for false starts in one game, unable to hear over the crowd while

trying to get ready for the speed-rushing end nicknamed the Freak.

That was when the Titans had some of the stingiest defenses in the

NFL.

The Titans didn’t have that edge last season when fans didn’t

have much to cheer about. Tennessee gave up an NFL-worst 471 points

and went 4-4 at home. They are home after a two-game road trip

showing marked improvement defensively. They have seven sacks,

three interceptions and holding opponents to 19.5 points a

game.

And the Titans are willing to work to give fans reasons to get

excited.

”It’s up for us to create that environment,” Wilson said. ”We

give these fans something to cheer about, we can have the

environment we want to create for the opposing teams to come in

here.”

It’s been a month since the Titans have played at home. Safety

Bernard Pollard said they want to have fun and make themselves at

home by outplaying San Diego with one of the NFL’s most competitive

quarterbacks coming in Philip Rivers.

”This is our home,” Pollard said. ”This is our house. We have

to protect it by any means necessary.”

Rivers has played with the Chargers in Nashville a couple times,

including Christmas night in 2009. He’s had family on hand and

calls it a tough place to play.

”It’s a tough crowd,” Rivers said. ”They’re loud, but it’s a

classy place. I’ve always felt like it’s a first-class place to

play. The fans are tough and loud and good, but it seems to be a

very respectful place. I always appreciate that. It’s definitely a

challenge. We’re both 1-1 and trying to fight to get our second

win.”

The Titans also hope for another benefit from being at home

where fans quiet down when their offense is on the field.

”It will be fun to have third down not rocking for us and

rocking for the defense, so it’ll be a good advantage for us,”

quarterback Jake Locker said.

Of course, Chris Johnson has his own idea about what really gets

fans excited and screaming, and it’s not the defense.

”This game, it’s all about offense and putting up points,”

Johnson said. ”It’s cool for the defense to get stops and all

that. You know the people come out to see touchdowns being

scored.”

Notes: LB Zach Brown practiced Thursday after missing Wednesday

with an illness. RT David Stewart (right leg) also returned to

practice. DT Sammie Hill (right ankle) missed a second straight

practice along with WR Kendall Wright (concussion symptoms). CB

Blidi Wreh-Wilson left practice Thursday with a sore hamstring.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker