Titans must show they have shored up run defense

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) is chased by Tennessee Titans defenders, including Kamerion Wimbley (95), in the second quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Murray rushed for 167 yards and scored one
Mark Zaleski

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans know they made mistakes. Blaming the switch to a 3-4 scheme would be the easy out, though game tape shows exactly where they messed up by straying from gaps.

The Titans allowed the Cowboys to run for 220 yards against them just a week after holding Jamaal Charles to a measly 19 yards.

Safety Bernard Pollard says the Titans (1-1) cannot perform like that ever again.

''We are our own worst enemy, and it was great to hear from our coaches, to see the film and it's time to fix it,'' Pollard said.

DeMarco Murray ran for 167 yards all by himself, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey says the Titans took a loss they shouldn't have had.

''It's not necessarily harping on what happened in the past,'' Casey said. ''I think we know what we messed up on, and we think we made the corrections. It's just getting back out there and showing we are able to be consistent.''

Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton keeps saying transitioning to a 3-4 scheme takes time for players to be comfortable enough to simply play without thinking about where they should be on each play. The Titans certainly looked comfortable in Kansas City when they shut down the AFC's leading rusher in 2013, allowing them to pile up four sacks.

The Titans got to Tony Romo early with three sacks before the Cowboys started gashing Tennessee on the ground, and the Titans didn't stop them. Outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, who played defensive end for Tennessee the past two seasons, said they need to simply stay in their spots and handle their own assignments.

''Not trying to do too much and just playing sound football,'' Wimbley said. ''I think if we just handle that, we'll be fine.''

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who uses a 4-3 scheme at Cincinnati, noted how the Titans added linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Shaun Phillips to help the transition to a 3-4 and likes what Tennessee has up front. Lewis also knows Horton from his work last year at Cleveland.

''They have a fine, fine scheme, and we've got to do a great job of being able to get bodies on people,'' Lewis said. ''They're an explosive defense up front with guys that are strong, and it's going to be important that we do a great job. I can't tell you how they're going to play, I just know we need to play well up front.

Now the Titans visit Cincinnati (2-0) on Sunday where Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill have given the Bengals a strong run game to make up for injuries to wide receivers A.J. Green and Marvin Jones. Together, they ran for 164 yards last week. Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Titans must fit their gaps better to stop the run.

''I know that we're going to get tested because we didn't stop the run as well as we needed to last week,'' Whisenhunt said.

Casey, who got two sacks before the Cowboys started running, agreed.

''Why should they pass the ball if we can't stop the run?'' Casey said.

Notes: CB Jason McCourty (groin) and Woodyard (ankle) both were limited again Thursday at practice. McCourty didn't play the second half against Dallas but said he is getting better each day with the final decision to play not his. ''I'm going to leave that up to coach Whiz to get into full details and deciding what Sunday looks like and all that,'' McCourty said. ''He decides who's up and who's down, so I'm going to leave that up to him. That's his decision to make.'' ... RB Dexter McCluster (right foot) practiced fully along with QB Charlie Whitehurst (right pinkie).

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Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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

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