Titans still trying to find themselves on defense
The Tennessee Titans still are trying to find their way as a
defense, and they know very well their challenge is to put together
a stingy effort for the second straight week.
The Titans stymied Cam Newton, forcing his worst performance as
a rookie, and held Carolina to its first game without a touchdown
Next up are Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said Wednesday that’s the NFL, where
there’s never any long stretches to enjoy playing well.
”Our defense no doubt played well against an offense that was
playing really well at that time,” Munchak said. ”This week is a
veteran group that everyone gave a great chance to win the NFC, and
they are a little disappointed at how they are playing at 5-4 …
We need to win, they need to win, and defense is obviously going to
be a big part of that.”
The Titans (5-4) came up with a season-high five sacks by six
players, forced two turnovers and allowed a season-low in points
against Carolina in the 30-3 win – even with three rookies starting
and a fourth subbing in. Jurrell Casey, a third-round pick out of
Southern California, has started every game, with Karl Klug, a
fifth-round pick out of Iowa, rotating in at tackle every week.
Akeem Ayers, the second-round pick from UCLA, also has started
every game at linebacker.
Colin McCarthy, the fourth-rounder out of Miami, got his first
NFL start at middle linebacker with veteran Barrett Ruud out due to
a groin injury. McCarthy lined up everyone and had a team-high
eight tackles with a hit on Newton.
”A lot of the rookies now are knowing what to do and know their
jobs,” defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said.
The Titans held Carolina to 279 yards, well below what the NFL’s
fifth-best offense had been cranking out.
Safety Michael Griffin credited the rookies’ strong play, along
with having safety Chris Hope back. The 10-year veteran broke his
left arm Oct. 2, and the Titans eased him back onto the field in
Carolina, where he intercepted a tipped pass to keep the Panthers
out of the end zone. Griffin said Hope’s return allowed the Titans
to put six defensive backs on the field and use more of their
playbook in confusing Newton.
Atlanta coach Mike Smith said he noticed how many different
looks the Titans showed Carolina, which makes more work for an
offense preparing for Tennessee. Doing that with four rookies at
times is even more impressive.
”It says a lot about that rookie class that there are some good
football players, and it says a lot about coach (Jerry) Gray and
his staff to be able to be that multiple with four young players,”
Smith said of the Titans’ defensive coordinator.
But the Titans have been up and down this season. They ranked
first in the NFL in fewest points allowed in early October, then
gave up 79 points and 949 yards combined in consecutive losses to
Pittsburgh and Houston. They know too well how inconsistent they’ve
Cornerback Jason McCourty said he thinks the performance in
Carolina helped the defense’s confidence, especially in how the
hard work preparing and watching film turns into results on game
day. A strong performance by the line is a big help, too, and the
Titans know Ryan has been sacked 20 times through nine games.
”We tell those guys all the time they have a performance like
that, five sacks and pressuring the quarterback, it makes our job
easier,” McCourty said. ”We know it starts up front with them.
When they have a good game, they make us look good.”
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