NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans are back from their bye and hoping the rest from a long weekend can help them break some bad habits.
Even if it's not that simple, they believe they can still turn around their season.
''Stick with us,'' cornerback Jason McCourty said Monday. We're going to keep working, and we're going to try to turn this thing around. It's not how you start but how you finish.''
Pessimism is rampant among fans already working the math on where the Titans (2-6) might draft in May. This franchise went into the bye having lost six of their last seven with the offense already turned over to rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger. He will make his second start Sunday when they visit Baltimore (5-4).
The Titans returned to work Monday after a four-day weekend in a break they hope helped refocus and re-energize everyone. They practiced Monday with third down and red zone scoring still a top focus.
''Don't count us out,'' running back Dexter McCluster said. ''It's not over. You can't give up in life. You can't give up on us, and we're definitely not going to give up on ourselves.''
The Titans certainly have their issues. No NFL team gives up more first downs per game than Tennessee, and the offense is dead last in converting third downs. Only three teams score fewer points per game than the Titans, averaging 17.1 points. They've been outscored in every quarter for the season and stand 202-137 overall.
First-year coach Ken Whisenhunt said nobody is happy with how the first eight games went, but they view having the bye in the middle of the season as an opportunity. They spent the bye studying areas where they must improve. His biggest message to the Titans has been they must get better.
He and his Titans have talked about how teams can turn their seasons around by stringing together wins.
''You've heard this phrase, `You are what your record is,' and that's what we were the first eight games,'' Whisenhunt said. ''But that doesn't mean that's what we have to be over the next eight, and that's the way we're going to approach it. We understand we have areas that we haven't played well, and we've got to focus on getting better in those areas.''
That's why officials will be at practice Wednesday throwing flags to help the Titans cut back their penalties. They've been penalized 63 times for 580 yards with the mistakes hurting the offense the most. Whisenhunt said the penalties have to stop, and that's why he tried to create situations in the last three practices to simulate game conditions.
''Some of that's confidence, and that's what's hurt us in a couple of games,'' Whisenhunt said.
The Titans face a tough stretch starting at Baltimore followed by hosting Pittsburgh on Nov. 17 followed by trips to Philadelphia and Houston - teams with a combined 21-14 record.
Tight end Delanie Walker, who leads the team with 475 yards receiving, wants his teammates back refreshed from their break but angry at being 2-6. He wants to see them hit the ground running so they can figure out what kind of team this really is. Resembling Whisenhunt would be a good start.
''He's a physical, relentless, tough guy, and that's the identity we need to have,'' Walker said.
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