October 01, 2014

Though eager to end their early struggles, the Tennessee Titans are not panicking.

Looking to avoid their first four-game skid in four seasons, the Titans can get back on track Sunday by handing the Cleveland Browns an eighth consecutive road defeat.

With three of the first four on the road against 2013 playoff teams, coach Ken Whisenhunt didn't expect an easy beginning to his Tennessee tenure. That's proved to be the case, as the Titans (1-3) have frequently looked overmatched while being outscored 100-34 in losses to Dallas, Cincinnati and Indianapolis that followed a 26-10 victory at Kansas City.

"It was difficult,'' Whisenhunt said.

''New systems, new things, new ways of doing things, we've had some not so good games," he added. "I mean I'm stating the obvious of course, but we're going to get it going in the right direction. I have every confidence in that.

''This isn't an easy thing to go through."

It could get easier with three of the next four at home, including three straight against teams with losing records. The Titans last dropped four in a row during a six-game slide Oct. 31-Dec. 9, 2010.

"You have to stay the course with the expectations and you have to be clear with how you expect it to be done," Whisenhunt said.

He needs to fine tune an offense that's posted the fourth-fewest points in the league, has yet to score in the first quarter and ranks 28th in time of possession at 26 minutes, 22 seconds. The Titans amassed 261 total yards behind reserve quarterbacks Charlie Whitehurst and Zach Mettenberger in last Sunday's 41-17 loss to the Colts.

"I think for us to be more consistent as an offense, we've got to be a lot more disciplined in what we're trying to get done," said Whisenhunt, who talked of streamlining the offense to simplify things.

After sitting last weekend with an injured right wrist, Jake Locker is on track to return Sunday. Locker, however, has completed 56.4 percent of his passes and thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions while being sacked eight times. His 70.8 rating is among the worst in the league.

The Titans ran for only 85 yards against the Colts, but 34 came on six carries by rookie Bishop Sankey, who could see an increased role this weekend.

Tight end Delanie Walker has been the team's most consistent offensive option, leading the way with 22 receptions for 317 yards and three TDs.

With the offense struggling, the Titans defense has spent too much time on the field. Tennessee's 27.5 points allowed per game is tied for fifth highest in the NFL.

The Titans' 307 penalty yards also are fifth most in the league.

"We have to put some wins up there and we have to stop all of the little things that (are) killing us," receiver Kendall Wright said.

Tennessee hopes that scenario plays out Sunday against Cleveland (1-2), which has dropped 22 of 24 road games. The Browns, though, return from their bye week confident, with both of their defeats coming on last-second field goals by Pittsburgh and Baltimore in Weeks 1 and 3.

The Browns' 26-24 win over New Orleans on Sept. 14 came on a Billy Cundiff field goal with 3 seconds remaining.

''We're committed to this, we realize where we're at, we realize how close we are,'' said quarterback Brian Hoyer, who has thrown for 716 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

''I think we've proven to ourselves that we can play with anyone, but it only matters if you win or lose."

Though Cleveland would like to improve on its 25.7 points allowed per contest, it's scoring 24.7 a game while Johnny Manziel waits in the wings and Josh Gordon remains suspended.

The Browns rank in the top 10 in the NFL with an average of 132.7 rushing yards, and could have veteran Ben Tate back after he missed the last two games with a sprained knee.

Even when Tate returns, rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell expect to remain in the mix after combining for 345 yards and five TDs on 74 carries through three games.

''I'm proud of those guys,'' said the oft-injured Tate, who ran six times for 41 yards against Pittsburgh. ''I believe in myself and I know what I can do and I believe in my talents. I'm never one of those guys that wants to hate on the next guy."

Tate, who ran for 93 yards on nine carries against the Titans in Week 2 last season with Houston, has averaged 6.7 per carry in five games versus Tennessee.

The Titans have won the last two meetings, most recently 31-13 at Cleveland in 2011.

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