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Notebook: Titans Target Offensive Opportunities as Home Opener Approaches

Posted Sep 18, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The combination of returning to the practice field after a tough loss and, at last, preparing for their home opener was one Titans players said benefitted Wednesday’s session at Saint Thomas Sports Park.  

Tennessee (1-1) hosts San Diego (1-1) at LP Field at noon, CT Sunday in a matchup of teams that have each led Houston in the fourth quarter only to suffer losses in the past two weeks.

Delanie Walker scored his first touchdown as a Titan against the Texans. He is looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd for the first time at LP Field since joining Tennessee as a free agent.

“It was a little aggressive. It was a physical practice,” tight end Delanie Walker said. “It was fast, intense. I think everybody felt that loss and you could tell by the way we practiced today.”

Receiver Nate Washington said players showed a refined purpose throughout the day with hard work in the weight room, keen attention in meetings and a fast pace on the field.

“Coaches have kind of been preaching about our tempo, which is something we need to improve,” Washington said. “We need to be better in and out of the huddle and getting lined up and just running our offense with confidence. I think the things they put in the game plan are definitely going to help us out this weekend.

“We’ve watched extra film on the Chargers, trying to understand what they do and who they are so it’s really a matter of us executing,” Washington added. “We have to be better executers with the game plan we have.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said he liked the energy and excitement, “especially for a Wednesday,” from start to finish.

“Usually Wednesdays are kind of hard-to-get-started days,” Munchak said. “So, I thought they did well. They need to have a good week, and hopefully that will lead to a great effort on Sunday.”

After falling behind 16-10 early in the fourth quarter in Houston, the Titans mounted a 99-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jake Locker to Walker, who recorded his first TD as a Titan. After creating a little bit of space on the first play, the Titans sped up the offense, going mostly no-huddle and having Locker line up in the shotgun formation. The drive consisted of eight pass plays and one 15-yard rush by Chris Johnson and broke up a “funk” that Tennessee slipped into in the third quarter.

A 23-yard interception return for a touchdown by Alterraun Verner gave the Titans a 24-16 lead with 4:59 remaining, but Tennessee’s offense was unable to get a first down on its next possession to run down the clock or on the possession that followed a TD and two-point conversion runs by Houston’s Arian Foster.

“We’ve got to be better. I think when we watch the film, there’s opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of and we can’t do that, especially against defenses like that,” Locker said. “We just had some misidentifications, missing some throws, route depth, a bunch of different things that if we can clean up the small details of it, it makes that much of a difference and that’s what you have to do against really good defenses.”

Through two weeks the Titans have been run-oriented with an NFL-high 75 rushes (50 by Johnson for 166 yards) and 50 pass attempts, which is the lowest number in the NFL.

Tennessee may want to pass more this week because San Diego has allowed a league-high 375.5 passing yards per game or need to pass more to keep pace with a Chargers offense that’s tied for fourth in scoring with 30.5 points per game.

HOME AGAIN: Tennessee has spent more time away from LP Field than any other NFL team from its respective home stadium. The Titans and Miami Dolphins (2-0) were the only two teams to open the regular season with two road games, and Tennessee was on the road for its final preseason game at Minnesota.

Walker, who was still recovering from a knee scope during the preseason, said he’s been looking forward to playing in front of Titans fans at home for the first time.

“I was just sitting on the sideline while my teammates played, so I’m actually excited to play in front of our own crowd and get to see them cheer for us and for them to see us at home against a good football team and the way we play,” Walker said.

Locker said he’s expecting a “good atmosphere” fueled by a “great crowd.”

“It will be fun to have third down not rocking for us and rocking for the defense, so it will be a good advantage for us,” Locker added.

The Titans were road underdogs in both games, and while they said they did miss some offensive opportunities in both, they’ve also avoided committing a turnover this season in two tough environments.

“It’s been quite some time, so to be able to come home, be in front of our families, our friends, our neighborhoods, the city that we play for, I think it’s definitely going to help us out to have all these people screaming for us and rooting for us,” Washington said. “We’re excited about coming home, excited about giving this city what they need and what they’ve been waiting for, which is a winning team. We’ve definitely been working hard for it.”

The reward for the long-time absence is three consecutive home games, but Tennessee will have another long gap with three road games between hosting Indianapolis on Nov. 14 and Arizona on Dec. 15.

INJURIES: Munchak said Sammie Hill, who suffered an ankle injury on a cut block by Houston, is sore and will be “day-to-day” and running back Shonn Greene, who suffered a knee injury in the season opener will be out this week as he recovers from a knee scope he underwent on Monday.

In addition to Hill and Greene, David Stewart (calf), Kendall Wright (concussion symptoms) and Zach Brown (illness) didn’t practice.

Munchak said he’s hoping Stewart and Brown will be able to return Thursday and Wright is under evaluation after developing a headache Tuesday. Wright suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit from Texans CB Kareem Jackson during the 99-yard drive.

“(Wright’s) in the program under evaluation because of the hit. He was fine after the game. He was fine during the game,” Munchak said. “He came in Monday and worked out and was doing fine. I think Tuesday he just felt not quite himself. We’re just being cautious with him.”

Wright, who held onto the ball after the hit, said he’s never experienced a concussion and is looking forward to returning.

The hit by Jackson prompted a $42,000 fine by the NFL, the same amount that was levied against Titans safety Bernard Pollard for a significantly different hit on Andre Johnson that resulted in a concussion for Johnson.

Pollard, who said league officials told him he didn’t do anything wrong on the play, plans to appeal.

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