Published December 11, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Munchak's job security depends on wins, and the only thing his Titans have done consistently this season is lose.
Munchak said Monday he hasn't talked in a couple weeks with owner Bud Adams, who put everyone in the franchise on notice a month ago that he wanted improvement.
"That's not my worry or my decision," Munchak said. "My job is to get these guys, we have to win football games. I get that. But I think it's all about, for me, is knowing that we're heading in the right direction. I feel we're doing that. I feel we're not getting the wins, and I get that. And that's what I'll be judged on when it's all said and done."
Munchak said the key will be the team's performance in the final three games. He believes Jake Locker and the other young players are starting to develop as they hoped, while receiver Kenny Britt just turned in his best performance since tearing his right ACL in September 2011. The coach said they'll keep working hard and not worry about any consequences.
"This is going to be a very good football team here," Munchak said. "We're not showing it right now as far as our record goes. ... I feel you see enough stuff. We're close enough. It's here. We'll get it, and hopefully we'll show it over the next three weeks."
Finishing has been the Titans' biggest challenge this season, and now they will have to play without tight end Jared Cook. Their second-leading receiver with 44 catches tore his right rotator cuff in the 27-23 loss to Indianapolis, ending his season.
In the game, the Titans (4-9) blew a 20-7 halftime lead in their fifth loss in six games. That officially eliminated them from playoff contention, clinched a second losing record in three seasons and overshadowed some of the improvement Munchak insists he sees.
They have outgained their opponents in total offense each of the past two weeks. Against the Colts, Locker was off to his best start a week after throwing seven straight incompletions in the first half of a loss to Houston. The first-year starter was 15 of 20 for 213 yards with a touchdown pass and a 125.6 passer rating in the first half, but was just 7 of 15 for 49 yards in the second.
The Titans also settled for three field goals after getting to the Colts 22 or closer, missing opportunities to blow open their lead. Locker, who has nine turnovers in three games, also missed a couple of key plays that cost the Titans dearly.
With the Titans pinned down at the Titans 1, Locker decided against sneaking on first down and dropped back for a throw that was picked off by Cassius Vaughn for a TD. Locker also didn't see the chains moved for a first down on the final drive and instead sneaked on what he thought was third-and-inches. He was stopped for no gain, and the Titans punted three plays later.
They never touched the ball again.
Munchak said officials didn't signal a first down and they couldn't see that Chris Johnson had gained a first down until the ball was put down.
"Everything that could go wrong went wrong," Munchak said.
Munchak, in his second season as head coach, had his own issues. He let Rob Bironas attempt a 57-yard field goal late in the first quarter leading 7-0 after watching the kicker connect from 60 yards in warm-ups. Bironas' field goal attempt was wide right, and the Colts took over at midfield where they drove for a tying TD.
The Titans had four sacks, hit Andrew Luck repeatedly and held the Colts to 269 yards, the second-fewest yards they've allowed this season.
Now they have an extra day before hosting the Jets (6-7) on Monday night. Munchak gave them Monday off and will bring them back for a light workout Tuesday before taking another day off Wednesday.
Winning out remains the goal to build confidence in a young team.
"These are tough times to go through when things aren't going your way, you're not getting breaks the way you hoped," Munchak said. "It's how you handle them, and I think this group will grow because of it and be a better team because of what they're going through right now."
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