NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The way multiple Titans see it, everyone has had a hand in getting to the hole the team is in, and everyone is going to need to help tunnel out.
“We’ve just got to stay focused, be professionals at all times and work our way through this,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “We should have been climbing. We need to have every guy with a shovel, trying to dig our way out of this thing. That’s where we’re at: everybody’s going to have to dig and find a way to help each other out. We’ve got to make plays to win the freaking game and we’re not doing it.”
The Titans (4-6) missed an opportunity to move within a game of the Colts (7-3), who have the inside track on the AFC South. There’s a logjam of teams “in the hunt” for the final Wild Card spot with six games to play, but Tennessee has three straight on the road (Oakland, Indianapolis, Denver).
“We’ve got to keep moving. We’re going on to Oakland,” Derrick Morgan said. “That’s all you can do. You can’t sit here and sulk and feel sorry for yourself and sulk. That’s the only thing you can do.”
The prolonged road trip may not be the worst thing for the Titans, who lost their fourth in a row at home and their fourth decided by seven points or less this season.
“We’re not protecting this house. We’re not getting it done at home of all places, so we need to really find out what we’re about and we’ve got six games left,” Morgan said. “A lot can happen. It sucks. I’m tired of having this conversation. We’ve got too much talent in here for not getting the job done.”
Tennessee scored the first 14 points of the game against Indianapolis, with Chris Johnson rushing for 70 yards and two touchdowns on his first eight carries. The Colts, however, responded with 20 straight points that were fueled by a field goal to end the first half, a touchdown to open the second and quick touchdown two plays later after a kickoff return was fumbled.
Morgan said the results didn’t match the work the Titans put in.
“I know that we’re coming to work. We work hard. We didn’t take any days off, we didn’t come in feeling sorry for ourselves,” Morgan said. “We came to work, and that’s why it hurts so bad because guys are out there working their butts off every day at practice and we’re not getting the results we want.”
The Titans reviewed the film Friday and are scheduled to be off Saturday through Monday before returning to practice Tuesday.
Pollard, in his first year with the Titans and one of Tennessee’s captains vowed the team will keep working.
“For us, we’re going to keep on practicing and showing up on Sundays, and when all the craziness stops, we’re going to be in a wonderful place, but right now, we just can’t dodge it. Everywhere we go, no matter if it’s away or home, we find a way to shoot ourselves,” Pollard said. “Right now, we’re not making plays to win. We’re out there just playing, and you have to make plays to win the game. We’ve lost six games, and in six of those games, we didn’t make plays to win.”
Tags: Bernard Pollard, Chris Johnson, Derrick Morgan, Tennessee Titans
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Tennessee showed Sunday at Houston that it doesn’t plan on being a pushover this season, but the Titans want to push through a disappointing result against the Texans.
The Titans answered the Texans’ opening touchdown with a touchdown and endured terrible field position for the third quarter before rallying to a 24-16 lead with less than five minutes left in regulation. The lead didn’t hold, however, as Houston tied the game and then prevailed in overtime.
“It’s tough. It’s really difficult,” quarterback Jake Locker said. “This is what’s tough about this sport. It doesn’t all go the way you’d like it in hard fought games like this. That’s why you love it so much, that’s why it’s so tough at times. That’s a hard one to swallow, but we’re going to have to forget about it and come back to work (this) week.”
Defensive end Derrick Morgan said the Titans feel like it’s a win that got away and that the team needs to do a better job of finishing next time.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said he liked the resiliency the team showed when things weren’t going well even if it didn’t yield the resolution of the Titans improving to 2-0 to start the season for the first time since 2008.
“We had the opportunity in the fourth quarter to win that football game and that is all you can ask for when you travel on the road against a team that has won the division the past two years,” Munchak said. “Now we are going to be in (the games) and we have the personnel and the group and the heart, and our mentality is that we are going to be in these games every weekend and now we have to find a way to win them when we come this close.”
Michael Griffin said the game reminded them a little bit like Tennessee’s overtime loss at home to Indianapolis in Week 8. The Titans lagged after that emotional game, losing four of their next five.
“I feel like we’re going in the right direction, but we’re still trying to get there and put some pieces of the puzzle together,” Griffin said.
Players who lived that tough stretch don’t want to repeat it, and players who were brought in as free agents and through the draft want to prevent it.
The Titans won two road games in all of 2012 and lost 38-14 last season at Houston. This season, they’ve won at Pittsburgh, pushed the Texans to the brink and are returning for three consecutive home games (San Diego, New York Jets, Kansas City).
“We’re just going to rebound and we’re going to do what we’ve got to do next week against the Chargers and let them feel our pain,” Jurrell Casey said.
Munchak said he wants the team to build off the experience it gained Sunday to acquire what’s needed to finish opponents.
“We have to realize that’s what the NFL is all about,” Munchak said. “If you put yourself in that spot, there are great players playing. We are that type of team that can crawl back and change the momentum of a game, even when things are looking bad for a while. We did that and so we have to build on that, come back and play better, and clean up the stuff we had hurt us in this game. If we do that, we’re going to win a lot of football games.”
Tags: Derrick Morgan, Jake Locker, Jurrell Casey, Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans
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A wish list of some things the Titans’ defense wants to do against the Bengals:
1) Measure up — The Titans are pleased that all four preseason opponents were playoff teams in 2012 because it gives them a chance to measure where they are at against where other teams have been. Rosters change from year to year, but Cincinnati has made it to the postseason in each of the past two seasons. Derrick Morgan said the defense looks forward to playing more this week than against Washington.
“It’s good because last week we were kind of getting in our groove and they pulled us, so we’re going to have more time to get comfortable, get in the flow of the game and make some plays,” Morgan said.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said the defense may have been a little tentative in its first action in eight months, so he wants to see a more intense start, and Morgan concurred.
“When you’re on the road it’s a hostile environment and it’s just us out there so we’ve got to bond and set the tone early,” Morgan said.
2) Press him? — Reports from bengals.com are that receiver A.J. Green looked sharp in his return to full action at practice this week. The 6-foot-4, 207-pound Green is a top young receiver and one that might be good to evaluate how shifting to playing more “press man” coverage at the line of scrimmage could work out for the Titans this season. Tennessee has been alternating between Alterraun Verner, who started against Washington, and Tommie Campbell, who is scheduled to start against Cincinnati, at the cornerback spot opposite Jason McCourty. The Titans have been playing Coty Sensabaugh at nickel, and the second-year pro was first in line to replace McCourty against the Redskins.
3) Force punts — It’s only one set of preseason games, but Cincinnati converted nine of 16 third downs against Atlanta in its opener, and Washington converted eight of 15 against Tennessee. The Titans allowed 10 opponents to convert at least 42 percent of third downs last season and five opponents to convert 50 percent or more. Tennessee was 4-6 in the 10 games and 1-4 in the five games in 2012.
4) Continue to jell — The Titans are planning to use multiple defensive packages this season but are likely to keep things relatively simple against Cincinnati. That should allow players to continue to adjust to new teammates throughout the defensive line, linebackers and secondary and as a total unit.
Tennessee brought in free agents Sammie Hill, Antonio Johnson and Ropati Pitoitua on the defensive line, linebacker Moise Fokou (who is likely to start in place of Colin McCarthy for the second week in a row), and safeties Bernard Pollard and George Wilson this offseason. The Titans are also playing Karl Klug more at defensive end and Scott Solomon at linebacker, although he’s in somewhat of a hybrid role. The game should provide further opportunity to evaluate strengths of different players and how best to combine them.
Tags: Alterraun Verner, colin mccarthy, Derrick Morgan, Jason McCourty, nfl Preseason, Sammie Hill, Tennessee Titans
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Speaking to media on Wednesday, a day before the Titans’ first practice of 2013 training camp, Derrick Morgan talked of a hunger.
The appetite wasn’t because Morgan shed more than five pounds this offseason to play at 265 this year. It was because a bad taste lingered from Tennessee’s 6-10 mark in 2012.
The Titans made multiple coaching and personnel moves to get better, and players used their free time to improve their own game. Morgan said he’s “100 percent” confident that the whole team is better than the one that reported to camp last year.
“I see the changes we made and just the intensity that we brought to practice,” Morgan said. “Guys are hungry. I know I am. We’re tired of losing. Last year was a miserable season for me. I know it was for a lot of people. I know we don’t want to feel that way in January, so we’re going to do whatever it takes to be playing come playoff time and be in New York for the Super Bowl. We have the same goals, so we’re going to work toward them.”
Morgan wanted to lose the weight at the suggestion of pass rush specialist Keith Millard so Morgan can be “more agile, more quick.” He also said he trained “more specifically on football stuff” this year than say between 2010 and 2011 when he was recovering from an ACL injury early in his rookie season.
Personally, Morgan’s most complete season came in 2012 when he started all 16 games and had 66 tackles (35 solo), with 6.5 sacks, 19 quarterback pressures, five tackles for loss and five passes defensed. Those numbers were career highs in every category, expect QB pressures (he had 20 in 2011), and he wants to build momentum and move the Titans forward.
He’s not alone in that regard. Cornerback Jason McCourty said Tennessee was able to do productive work during its offseason program, and that progress created “the most excitement I’ve had going into a training camp since I’ve been here.”
“As a player here, it makes it a lot of fun. We’re going in and there’s going to be a different level of practice. You guys saw it in (organized team activities) and mini-camp,” McCourty said. “We’re looking forward to raising our game. We know when you’ve been losing you have to do something if you want change, so we’ve already made the changes on the roster. Now, it’s up to us as players to go out on the practice field, compete and get better.”
Tags: Derrick Morgan, Tennessee Titans
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There is little doubt the Titans will look towards free agency and the NFL Draft to strengthen their defensive line, and it’s a good year to do it, says Titans GM Ruston Webster.
“I think it’s a really good crop. Defensive line in general, I think is good,” Webster said. “Typically, those guys are going to be in the first round because everybody needs them. They’re rare birds. Outside of quarterback, the one position that’s the toughest to build, and the one position where you have to be really strong in order to win consistently, is up front on the defensive line and the offensive line.”
The Titans could use the help. They struck gold on defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug in last year’s draft, but are thin at defensive end with William Hayes, Jason Jones and Dave Ball set to become free agents.
“It’s definitely a need,” head coach Mike Munchak said. “Derrick Morgan is really the only guy playing a lot who is under contract, so that’s definitely an area we’re going to have to look at from both ends — in free agency and the draft. And when the smoke clears, we’ll have some good defensive ends. It’s a matter of where they’re going to come from.”
Munchak would like to possess a combination of veteran leadership and young talent at defensive end. Webster covets a playmaker, similar to what the Titans had in Jevon Kearse back in 1999.
“He changed things,” Webster said of Kearse. “When I was in Tampa, we had Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp. They made everybody else around them better. Those type of special rushers really can affect your defense. They help the guys on the back end, and if you can get a lead on people and rush the passer, you’ve got a great chance to win.”
Munchak spoke of the special player he’d love to find either in free agency or April’s draft.
“You’d like to have a guy that the offense is worried about, a guy that when there’s two minutes left can take the game over, knock the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and win it for you,” he said. “I think we’re looking for those kinds of guys, someone on the edges that can create those kinds of problems for an offense.”
Tags: Derrick Morgan, Mike Munchak, Ruston Webster
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