Published November 20, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee coach Mike Munchak's pitch to the Titans is that they can be the team making a late run into the playoffs in their final six games.
Munchak challenged his team Monday to have at least made a run by the time the regular season ends.
"It seems to happen every year in the league," Munchak said. "This is our opportunity, our chance to be that team. That's how they have to believe it, that's how they have to work. ... It's up to you, if you want to have that kind of season and that kind of finish, or do you want to have the other kind, which I don't think any of us want."
The Titans (4-6) returned to work Monday morning after a six-day break with meetings and film study. They broke down their own mistakes and strengths through the first 10 games. Munchak then put them through a practice touching on everything from scoring inside the 20, 2-minute offense and the run game.
He said they saw what they're capable of Nov. 11 when they routed Miami 37-3 in a complete game. The defense forced four turnovers. The special teams showed up. And Chris Johnson ran for 126 yards while Jake Locker threw for two touchdowns in his return from a shoulder injury.
As far as the AFC playoff race goes, the Titans are one of five teams bunched at 4-6 behind Cincinnati (5-5). Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are both 6-4. So, there's a lot be decided, and Munchak is going to feed off that.
"We have to win a lot of football games, but if we do, then we're right in the middle of this thing. But we have to win," Munchak said. "What happens around us, you need the right teams to lose, obviously, along the trail."
Tennessee has put together only one winning streak this season when it beat Pittsburgh and won at Buffalo. They lost in overtime to Indianapolis when they had a chance at a third straight.
Cornerback Alterraun Verner said the Titans feel confident they can respond.
"We're in a six-game playoff before the playoffs where we can't really afford to lose any of these games," he said. "If we can take care of our business and do what we're capable of doing, we can easily win all six of these games.
"We just can't look ahead."
The final six games won't be easy even though they visit Jacksonville (1-9) on Sunday for the first of two games with the Jaguars down the stretch. The other four feature Houston (9-1), the Jets (4-6) and trips to Indianapolis and Green Bay (7-3).
The Titans first need to prove they can win a game inside the AFC South. The Jaguars contest starts a three-game stretch inside the division for Tennessee, and the Titans already have losses to Houston and the Colts this season. Jacksonville has won two of the last three in this series, and the Jaguars just missed a big win in Houston before falling 43-37 in overtime on Sunday.
"People get so caught up in records," Munchak said. "There you have 1-8 versus 8-1, and the 1-8 team should have won probably, had many chances to win that game. We understand what that's all about, and it's going to be a great game for us and a tough game for us to win in Jacksonville."
Monday's film session brought everyone together after the bye. The coaches spent the time without players self-scouting themselves, and they had plenty of bad football to study with Tennessee giving up an average 31.1 points per game with too many turnovers.
Looking back, linebacker Colin McCarthy believes the team is in the right frame of mind.
"It's kind of late now to focus on the bad things," he said. "Focus on the good things we've done, build on that and put together a game plan so we can attack Jacksonville and be efficient."
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