Titans: Woes in home opener largely self-inflicted

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) gets past Tennessee Titans defenders, including inebacker Kamerion Wimbley (95), in the second quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Mark Zaleski

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey is so upset with himself that he has posted grades of his play against Dallas on the wall beside his locker. He plans to keep that as a constant reminder until he fixes those mistakes.

The Titans struggled enough in their home opener to paper much of their locker room.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said nobody played great.

Casey had two sacks, but 11 mistakes were counted among his 58 plays with admonishments written to the side. Notes like: ''This is not you'' and ''Play like you.''

The lineman, who signed a $36 million extension last month, called it probably the worst game of his career. He feels like he let his teammates down when he ''stepped on that field.''

But Whisenhunt said it was a collective effort.

The Titans fell behind 16-0, gave up 220 yards rushing and managed only 68 yards in the first half en route to a 26-10 loss to the Cowboys.

''A lot of it was self-inflicted,'' Whisenhunt said. ''They prepared well, they played well. Give Dallas credit. They didn't do anything we didn't anticipate. We just didn't execute very well.''

Now Tennessee (1-1) hits the road starting a two-game swing at Cincinnati (2-0) on Sunday expecting the Bengals to follow the Cowboys' lead.

The Titans started strong holding Jamaal Charles to just 19 yards rushing in the opener as they smothered the running back who led the AFC in rushing last season. But DeMarco Murray shredded them for 167 yards by himself, nullifying a Titans' pass rush that got three of four sacks on Tony Romo in the first half.

The Titans are transitioning from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 front under defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who has cautioned that the switch can take weeks for players to become truly comfortable. Casey said they harped all week about the need to stay in their gaps only to wind up all over the field against the Cowboys.

''It's easy to fix ...,'' Casey said. ''It's about playing smart and playing consistently. We didn't have that (Sunday) when it came throughout the game.''

The offense did nothing to give the defense a breather either. The Titans were on the field only three minutes, five seconds in the first quarter with 19 yards and improved that only slightly in the second quarter with 5:14 of time of possession and 49 yards. Jake Locker had a passer rating of 7.6 at halftime and finished 18 of 34 for 234 yards with two interceptions.

Tight end Delanie Walker had a career-day with 10 receptions for 142 yards with a 61-yard touchdown. But he didn't his best individual performance after the ugly loss.

''Looking at the film, you can see from the front end and the back end there were plays that could've been made,'' Walker said. ''Guys not really being on the right assignment, not getting the right depth. That goes for all of us. Some protection problems. When you see things like that after a game we had, ... things we have to fix.''

Whisenhunt didn't shy away from the Titans' poor play. The first-year coach did find one positive in how Tennessee pulled within 16-10 and had a chance at taking the lead only to see safety Bernard Pollard drop a would-be interception he might have taken for a touchdown.

''Those are the kind of plays you have to make,'' Whisenhunt said.

Notes: Whisenhunt said cornerback Jason McCourty still was being evaluated for a groin injury and he would have more information Wednesday. Dexter McCluster left the locker room in a walking boot, and Whisenhunt said the running back had a sore foot.

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Online:

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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