Perfect Titans sweating small stuff
Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2008 3:30 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Overcon-fidence and arrogance are not problems for the Tennessee Titans. Just listen to them talk about their 5-0 start.
They sound more like worrywarts fretting over what needs work.
“Even though we are 5-0, we’re always trying to find ways to get better,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “When you’re 5-0 and you’re finding things that aren’t going right, that’s always a positive thing. The coaches don’t necessarily have to tell us what’s wrong. We can already figure out what’s wrong and try to get better at it.”
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth agrees. He sees a defense that ranks fifth in yards allowed and has given up the fewest points (56) through five games, but estimates the unit has played at only 75 percent of its potential.
“We just have to put a complete game together. Then you will see a dominant defense,” Haynesworth said.
So that’s what coach Jeff Fisher has his Titans thinking about during their bye week even as he gives some of his veterans time to rest and others to heal up before visiting Kansas City (1-4) on Oct. 19. Fisher wants to see longer plays offensively, better blocking, longer returns out of his special teams and improved tackling.
On paper, the Titans gave up 132 yards rushing in their 13-10 win at Baltimore last weekend and are now giving up 95.8 yards per game. Fisher said that is a bit deceiving. Eliminate two runs and he sees his defense holding the Ravens to three yards per carry.
“We’re still doing what we need to do in run defense. You can use and manipulate the numbers however you want. We need to get better, but there’s not necessarily a panic time right now,” Fisher said.
Limiting penalties is another key area for the Titans.
Bulluck shoving cornerback Cortland Finnegan after a second personal foul on the same drive made all the highlight films. But seven of their 10 penalties against Baltimore came on the Ravens’ two scoring drives — three of those either defensive offsides or encroachment. When Jacob Ford jumped early, he became the fourth defensive linemen called for offsides.
“That’s the one thing we have to get under control. We have way too many defensive offside penalties or neutral-zone infractions,” Fisher said.
Running backs can hit the hole better and improve their protection of Kerry Collins with room for lots of improvement, running back LenDale White said.
Granted, it’s easier to look at mistakes after a win.
“At the same time, you still look at the situations … shots you missed downfield, plays on the runs where we could’ve cut another way,” he said. “We just have to get better at that. The better we get at correcting our tapes, there’s nothing but upside from there.”
The Titans’ offensive line have given up only two sacks through five games. But Chris Johnson’s run of 51 yards at Cincinnati remains their longest running play, and a 44-yard completion to tight end Bo Scaife remains the longest pass play.
Center Kevin Mawae said there’s optimism because the Titans understand they are only a play or two away. The problem? It’s not the same player or position group as the repeat offender, but Mawae said the good thing is players know they made a mistake before they walk off the field without having to be reminded.
“The sky’s the limit for us. We’re winning games and making mistakes. If we can continue to correct those mistakes, we can only get better,” Mawae said. “We’re on the upside.”
Maybe they’re not so pessimistic after all.