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Notebook: Titans Want to Disrupt Rivers' Flow

Posted Sep 19, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans players and coaches said it’s tough to rattle Chargers QB Philip Rivers, but a key goal will be disrupting his rhythm Sunday when Tennessee hosts San Diego at LP Field.

Titans players who have played him, sacked him and seen him bounce back said they must be “relentless” in continuing to pressure the 10-year NFL veteran.

“He’s the type that will take the hit and make the play,” said defensive end Ropati Pitoitua, who recorded two sacks of Rivers on Sept. 30 last season as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. “We’ve just got to continue to pressure him and get on him.”

Rivers is entering the game on a roll. He has opened 2013 by completing 50 of 76 (65.8 percent) passes for 614 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 115.8.

“The big thing is I don’t think you can let Philip Rivers stay in rhythm,” Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said. “When you see him in rhythm, he’s just as good as any quarterback in this league. He can make all the throws, he’s doing stuff where you think this is what great, Pro Bowl quarterbacks do, and you’ve got to get him off balance.”

Gray said a substantial reason that Rivers has only taken three sacks this season is because of the “fortress” provided by left guard Chad Rinehart, who was added in free agency, and center Nick Hardwick and right guard Jeromey Clary, who have spent all 10 and seven seasons, respectively, with the Chargers.

Jurrell Casey and Mike Martin are two players who will be tasked with penetrating the interior of San Diego's offensive line to try and disrupt the rhythm of Chargers QB Philip Rivers.

Gray said the Titans hope Jurrell Casey, who had two sacks in the season opener, Karl Klug and Mike Martin will be able to get penetration from the interior of the defensive line.

“You’ve got to get three or four yards in the backfield and try to penetrate the center and the guards,” Gray said. “When you watch on the film, that’s like a fortress for him, and he’s staying back there, and if no one is getting close, he’s making all the throws.”

Rivers is 5-0 in the regular season against Tennessee with 10 TDs, four interceptions and a composite passer rating of 102. He also has a playoff win against the Titans.

The Titans have sacked Rivers a total of 14 times and hit him a total of 24 times in those regular season games. Four of the sacks and four of the hits came in last season’s matchup, but they were less impactful on the game because the Chargers built an early lead that proved insurmountable.  

Although it was several seasons ago, Titans coach Mike Munchak recalled a game in 2007 when the Titans sacked Rivers four times and hit him 13, briefly knocking him from the game before he returned and sparked a comeback win by San Diego.

“That’s always important that we make his day rough, but I’ve seen us make his day rough and him still perform,” Munchak said. “He’s not a guy you’re going to discourage easily, but we need to do that. We need to get interceptions; maybe we knock the ball loose and those kinds of things.”

Jason McCourty will be on the back end of most if not all plays but the cornerback stressed the importance of the entire defense being resilient on every play.

“You’ve just got to keep competing with him,” McCourty said. “He’s a heck of a competitor and when he gets hot, it’s hard to stop him so we’ve got to continue to go after him, continue to hit him and attempt to frustrate him.”

Munchak said the getting hit “isn’t going to discourage him from making the next throw.”

“He’s a guy that never does look at the rush; he’ll just learn from that play and make an adjustment,” Munchak said. “But, you still want to pressure him and still want to sack him and do all those things because obviously you can create big plays that way. You have to realize it doesn’t stop your intensity to get there, but you have to realize it’s really hard to rattle this guy.”

AYERS READY FOR MORE: The high ankle sprain that linebacker Akeem Ayers suffered in the second preseason game at Cincinnati prompted reductions in playing time and roles that Titans coaches envisioned for him this offseason, but the third-year pro said he’s feeling “a lot better” physically and is glad to have worked through his first experience with that type of injury.

“The first couple of weeks were rough, with not being able to practice for about a month, especially when you’ve been working hard all camp and you’ve gotten yourself into a groove,” Ayers said. “Something like a high ankle sprain can really set you back, so just trying to get back in that groove I left off on. The main thing is building that confidence back up and for me to trust that ankle.”

Ayers played 29 of 53 (55 percent) of the defensive snaps at Pittsburgh and 52 of 82 (63 percent) defensive snaps at Houston.

Gray said Ayers is likely to receive more opportunities this week against the Chargers.

“We’ve got to get Ayers doing more of the stuff for us like we planned on him doing. I think it’s coming,” Gray said. “The more we can get him out there, the more we can get him to turn the corner, that’s going to help us because there’s packages that we want to use that he’s really involved in, that when he’s 100 percent, I think he’s just as good as any pass rusher out there.”

Ayers said a continued progression of recovery helped him persevere.

“It’s something that you really have to fight through, especially when you know how you’re supposed to be doing something and play a certain way and you really have to tailor your game to what you’re able to do,” Ayers said. “A high ankle sprain is really a difficult injury. This is my first time having one, so I really wasn’t too familiar with it and I was expecting to get back fast and once I came back to be back where I left off, but it’s an injury that takes time and you’ve got to learn how to work with it until you’re able to go 100 percent.”

WRIGHT SITS OUT: Receiver Kendall Wright didn’t practice Thursday for the second straight day. Wright, who suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit from Texans CB Kareem Jackson Sunday, developed a headache Tuesday. The Titans are putting the second-year pro through the concussion protocol as a precaution, but Munchak said he assumes Wright will be available against the Chargers.

If not, Damian Williams, is expected to be available after missing last week with a hamstring. Munchak said rookie Justin Hunter, who made his regular season NFL debut last week, likely would be the fourth receiver if Wright can’t play.

NOTES: Munchak said “I think it’s going to be hard” for Sammie Hill to play this week. Hill suffered an ankle injury on a cut block by Houston early in last week’s game and was replaced by Antonio Johnson, whom Munchak and Gray credited for filling in. … Linebacker Zach Brown returned to practice Thursday after missing the previous day because of an illness. … David Stewart and Zaviar Gooden practiced fully. … Rookie Blidi Wreh-Wilson experience hamstring soreness and did not finish practice Thursday. ... Shonn Greene did not practice and will be out this week as he recovers from a knee scope he underwent Monday.

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