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Notebook: Titans Defense Expects Forceful Confrontation from 49ers

Posted Oct 18, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans defenders expect a forceful confrontation with the offensive line of the 49ers on Sunday.

The Titans want to get as many defenders around the ball carrier as possible and are expecting physical running by San Francisco's Frank Gore that is similar to what they saw from Seattle's Marshawn Lynch.

“They’re good and physical. They’re big up front and we know they’re going to want to run the football. That’s obvious from watching film,” said Colin McCarthy, who will be starting at linebacker for the first time this season. “That’s what they do so we’ll have our hands full with that. We’ve got the guys in this locker room to stop it. It will be a test for us on Sunday, but we’re up for it.”

San Francisco (4-2) is on a three-game winning streak in large part because of the resurgence in its power run game. The 49ers have rushed 114 times for 545 yards (4.8 per carry) in their past three games after rushing 77 times for 305 yards (3.9) in their first three games.

Gore has led the charge, rushing 62 times for 335 yards (5.4 per carry) in the past three games, compared to 41 rushes for 142 yards (3.5) in their first three.

Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said the size that the Titans added to the defensive line this offseason by bringing in free agents Ropati Pitoitua, Antonio “Mookie” Johnson and Sammie Hill could be quite important this week.

“Most teams try to make us go small, and San Francisco’s saying, ‘We’re going to do what we do best. We’re going to run the football and it’s your job to stop us.’ We’ve got these guys in here, Mookie, Ropati and Sammie, and you know what, ‘This is your type of game,’ so let’s see what we put the investment in,” Gray said.

Pitoitua leads the Titans with 4.0 sacks this season, and Johnson has started the past four games while Hill has been recovering from an ankle sprain. Johnson has done quite well in carrying the extra burden, but the Titans will be glad to have Hill back this week to keep both players fresh.

“(It helps) a lot because now (Johnson) doesn’t have to play 40-45 snaps. Now, maybe his snaps are cut back down, but those are quality snaps when you get Mookie and Sammie and Ropati, hopefully we get the chance for them to be on the field at the same time — not much because that means they’re running the football (with enough success to keep running it).

“We got those guys and they’re willing to do whatever we need to do to play,” Gray continued. “They’re doing a great job of feeding off each other, and Sammie’s back, it doesn’t mean Mookie is going back to the bench. He’s still going to play and now he’s got a good role on this team.”

Hill played a few snaps last week when the Titans were in their goal-line package and is expecting more this week. Those reps, he said, were helpful in getting the game speed back.

“Being 330 pounds, if you’re out there at any point in time, you’re going to get a good taste of what it’s going to feel like, so hopefully, it will be just as good playing more snaps next game,” Hill said.

Jurrell Casey said the 49ers might use less read option with QB Colin Kaepernick than they did a year ago, but Titans defenders are prepared for another mobile quarterback.

“It’s going to be a nice, physical game. We love a downhill running team,” Casey said. “They’re not going to be doing too much of that read option, so this is going to be one of the games that we love to go out there and play.”

POPULATION BOOM: The Titans have continued to emphasize getting multiple defenders to an area to stop ball carriers, and that will again be the case this week. In addition to bringing down tough runners, the added benefit is having more hands in the area to recover possible turnovers.

“We need 11 hats to the ball. I think we need population around the football and guys chasing, and good things happen when you’re around the ball,” McCarthy said. “I think you’ve seen that the past couple of weeks with fumble recoveries we’ve been able to have and the strips that we’ve had. We can’t rely on one guy to make the play, and we’ll rally to make the play.”

Tennessee forced five fumbles by Seattle last week and recovered two, with another loose ball that was almost recovered. The Titans have six interceptions and seven fumble recoveries this season, prompting extra attention from the 49ers this week.

“They’re the best we’ve seen at clubbing, punching, stripping, lawn mowering, just lodging it out from opponents,” San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said. “It’s always a critical thing to our well-being to have ball security and not turn the ball over. It’s emphasized weekly, daily, but, yes, this week we have to emphasize it even more. The Titans are excellent — the best we’ve seen.”

GREENE PROGRESSING: While much attention this week centered on the recovery from hip and knee injuries by Jake Locker, the Titans are also pleased with the progress Shonn Greene has made. Greene is questionable for Sunday’s game, which would mark his first action since the season opener.

“He actually did better (Friday) than he did (Thursday),” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “He may be a guy we get up on Sunday and make sure he’s running well, feeling well. He’s right on the verge of being able to be fully back. It’s just a matter of can he do it this Sunday or do we wait another week for him. That’s what we’ll kind of see with him tomorrow.

NAVY BLUES ARE BACK: As part of this week’s “Code Blue” festivities and the franchise’s 15th season as the Titans, players will be wearing blue jerseys and white pants that are similar to the initial jerseys donned by the Titans in 1999.

Munchak, who is deeply invested in the history of the franchise, decided to bring back the navy jerseys for the first time since 2008. Fans attending the game are asked to wear navy or light blue, according to where their section is, and each person will receive a free navy or light blue T-shirt.

“It’s exciting, I think. I told these guys it’s been five years since we’ve been in the (navy) blue. That to me is a Titan tradition,” Munchak said. “When we became Titans, that was our color, that’s where we had a lot of success in that. That’s not why we had the success, but I think it just brings back the memories, and the tradition is always important.

“I think I kind of explained that to the players, so I think it’s great,” Munchak continued. “I think it’s something they are excited about along with the “Code Blue” with the fans being into it, wearing their blue, and showing their support of the team, and knowing we’re all in this together on Sunday, and the city, the team, and the organization. It’s fun. It’s going to be a fun game.”

PRESTON RETURNS: Michael Preston cleared waivers, allowing the Titans to bring the receiver back as a member of their practice squad. Preston played in four games this season before he was waived this week to make space on the 53-man roster for linebacker Zac Diles. To make room for Preston on the practice squad, the Titans waived running back Kendall Gaskins.

INJURY UPDATE:  In addition to Locker, Jackie Battle (neck), Blidi Wreh-Wilson (hamstring), Bernard Pollard (ankle), David Stewart (ankle), Sammie Hill (ankle) and Lavar Edwards (shoulder) fully participated. Battle, Wreh-Wilson, Pollard, Stewart and Hill are probable, and Edwards is questionable.

Shonn Greene (knee), Patrick Bailey (hamstring), Rob Turner (shoulder) and Derrick Morgan (shoulder) were limited Friday and are questionable for Sunday. Moise Fokou (knee) and Zaviar Gooden (hamstring) did not practice this week and are out.

Click here for the full injury report.

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