Titans still working out kinks in run game
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans need to quickly work the kinks out of their run game if they want to help quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick have success filling in for the injured Jake Locker.
The Titans spent more than $100 million this offseason with a big chunk of that going toward the offensive line and backfield help for Chris Johnson so that running the ball was an option for coach Mike Munchak.
Well, five times the Titans couldn’t pick up a single yard in their 26-17 loss to the Chiefs — including from the Kansas City 1 with first-and-goal. Munchak said Monday that it was hard for the Titans to get the run game going the way they hoped and that revamped offensive line can be a lot better.
“We’re not playing near as well as we hope we will be at some time this season,” Munchak said. “We’ve played well in spurts as far as doing things consistently but haven’t yet to this point. When you’re not converting things like that third-and-1s, fourth-and-1s, like I said that’s concerning and that’s up front. We have to get more push at times.”
That said, Munchak isn’t considering replacing veteran center Rob Turner with rookie Brian Schwenke. He said the challenge is linemen knowing when to break off a double-team to pick up a linebacker. Munchak said that having three new linemen working together takes time to work on communication and consistency.
The Titans went three-and-out on their first five drives against the Chiefs and ran the ball only 11 times in the first half. They had a chance to pick up a first down on the second series only to see Jackie Battle stopped for no gain.
Munchak said the Titans should have scored when they had first-and-goal in the second quarter at the Chiefs 1. The Chiefs got penetration to stop Battle on the first play, and a defender swatted a Fitzpatrick pass that the quarterback caught on a play where tight end Delanie Walker was wide open in the end zone on the second. Fitzpatrick was sacked, then Battle was stopped up the middle on a play meant to go to the edge.
“We had chances to score, and they outexecuted us,” Munchak said.
Tennessee wound up running only 22 times for 105 yards, and Johnson was limited to a season-low 10 carries for 17 yards a week after he ran only 15 times for 21 yards in a rout over the Jets. Munchak said there were times they didn’t have much for Johnson.
The Titans (3-2) hope to get Shonn Greene back this week before they visit Seattle (4-1). He hurt his right knee in the opening win at Pittsburgh and had arthroscopic surgery Sept. 16. He was the veteran the Titans signed to a three-year deal to provide a thumping change-up in short yardage situations to Johnson.
“That hurt us no doubt about it because what we thought we could do changed,” Munchak said.
That could help the Titans who still rank 13th in the NFL averaging 116.8 yards rushing per game but 19th with an average 3.7 yards per carry. They will be without their third-leading rusher with Locker not playing in his home state Sunday because of his sprained right hip.
Locker was using crutches Monday in the locker room, and Munchak said a lot of the soreness is gone out of the hip. Now they need to see how Locker progresses in his recovery.
The Titans are focusing on fixing their mistakes knowing how crucial details hurt in blowing fourth-quarter leads now in their two losses this season. Munchak said Fitzpatrick’s two interceptions in the fourth quarter hurt, and safety Bernard Pollard said they have to fix their mistakes.”
“We just can’t beat ourselves,” Pollard said.
Notes: The Titans started WR Kendall Wright instead of Kenny Britt against the Chiefs, and Britt still struggled, failing to haul in three catchable passes including a drop on third-and-1 when protecting a 17-13 lead in the fourth quarter. Munchak said they have no plans to deactivate Britt and the only way to work out of a funk is by playing. Munchak said the Titans had eight dropped passes against the Chiefs. ... Munchak said DT Sammie Hill, who has missed three games with an injured right ankle, is expected back against Seattle.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org