Starting off right top task for Titans
Posted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 4:50 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee Titans receiver Nate Washington insists all thoughts of last year’s 0-6 start are in the past. Fullback Ahmard Hall holds the memory of that stretch as strong motivation to win immediately.
One thing all the Titans agree on is that a fast start is a must — beginning with Sunday’s opener against the Oakland Raiders.
Hall said Monday the Titans cannot afford to dig an early hole as they did in 2009 if they want to compete in the AFC South against the Indianapolis Colts or Houston Texans.
“We have to start fast. You can’t start slow in this league and think you’re going to pick it up at the end of the season. Championship teams, they finish. They finish strong,” Hall said. “You have to start fast and be right neck and neck with those guys.”
The Titans finished 8-2 to become the first NFL team to climb back to .500. It wasn’t enough as they just missed a third straight playoff berth.
A year ago, the Titans opened with four of their first six games on the road capped by that snowy 59-0 rout at New England. The 2010 schedule keeps them at home for three of their first four starting with Oakland, a team in search of its own quick start.
The Raiders opened 1-4 last year and haven’t had a winning record at any point since opening 2-1 in 2004.
Veteran safety Chris Hope was part of the 0-5 start in 2006 and last year’s winless stretch. He also recalls winning the first 10 games in 2008, when Tennessee finished 13-3, and a 6-2 start in 2007 for their last two playoff berths. He counsels his teammates to focus on the cliche of one game at a time.
“A fast start is always important because you just never know from season to season how well you’re going to be at the end of six games,” Hope said. “Evidently, we didn’t think we would start 0-6 last year.”
That’s what makes the next two weeks so crucial for Tennessee. First come the Raiders, then Pittsburgh before the Titans visit the New York Giants. Denver visits Oct. 4 before the Titans take trips to Dallas and Jacksonville.
“You lose your first two home games, then you add a few road games it can get ugly for you in an instant,” Hope said.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher tweaked his training camp schedule as a reaction to that 0-6 start, and his coaches spent more time during the preseason preparing for the Raiders compared to opening opponents in previous seasons. How much? Well, Fisher said he didn’t watch a play of the Saints last week for the preseason finale.
“Does that kind of give you an idea?” Fisher said.
He isn’t looking past Sunday, either, even though Pittsburgh remains one of this franchise’s favorite rivals from their days back in the now defunct AFC Central. This week is all about Oakland.
“Once that’s over, we’ll deal with the next opponent,” Fisher said.
This opening opponent might not matter that much to the Titans. Washington said this game will help show that 2010 is not going to be like 2009, even if he thinks all the talk of that 0-6 start ended with training camp. He’s been listening to teammates talk about the opener since March when they didn’t know who they would play or where.
“We understand the position we have and the opportunity we have for starting off this season. We’re going to come out and show our best to perform,” he said.
The Titans have called a “Code Blue” promotion encouraging fans to wear powder blue for this game, something reserved for the Colts the past two years. This game is sold-out just like every other game played at LP Field since it opened in 1999.
But receiver Justin Gage said the Titans have one goal.
“Nobody wants to start 0-1. We all realize how big of a game this is to start 1-0 and be in that positive column, and that’s what our goal is,” Gage said.