Growing pains: Titans can point to improvement, but not wins
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Everyone knows losing hurts, and the pain is mounting for Ken Whisenhunt and his Titans.
Tennessee has lost 17 of its last 20 games since Whisenhunt was hired. The last two were among the most painful with the Titans coming up short by a combined three points.
Whisenhunt can point to a bunch of statistics and argue the Titans (1-3) are much improved in his second season. The Titans are tied for the best time of possession in the NFL, holding the ball an average of 34 minutes, 18 seconds per game. They have the league's stingiest passing defense, giving up only 166.5 yards per game.
Rookie Marcus Mariota also ranks 10th among quarterbacks with a 99.7 passer rating.
It all seems to add up that things are heading in the right direction.
But the Titans are frustrated, unable to make the winning play or two to seal a victory. And as a result, Tennessee is once again 1-3 - just like last year when the Titans were on their way to a 2-14 finish.
''We need a win,'' Whisenhunt said Monday. ''That's what we need, and we got to continue to work until we get one. I think you can't ignore the fact that we're close, but close and $4 will get you a cup of coffee. ... We got to get over the hump. We got to win a game. And I think once we do that, that's really going to put us on the right course.''
The Titans' first three losses last season came by the margin of 16, 25 and 24 points. Then came a 29-28 loss to Cleveland when they blew a 25-point lead. Now they've blown double-digit leads in consecutive games and haven't won on their own field in a year, a skid that reached seven straight after failing to protect a 10-point lead in losing 14-13 to Buffalo.
Tight end Delanie Walker noted the Titans held the ball for more than 35 minutes against Buffalo. Yet they also were flagged nine times for 62 yards and gave up yet another big play after pinning the Bills at third-and-23 at their own 7.
''It's hard to swallow when you do things like that,'' Walker said. ''You think you should win the game at the end of the day. Finishing the game, that's what we're not doing so well.''
The Titans have outscored opponents 38-7 in the third quarter, yet they've been outscored 42-16 in the final 15 minutes. Left tackle Taylor Lewan said each player must look at himself in the mirror and make sure they're doing what they can to help the team win. For a second straight day, Lewan said he must cut out his own penalties.
Whisenhunt said Lewan can do that by keeping his hands out of the opponent's face.
But the second-year lineman also said no one is shutting down yet with so many games left to play.
''We have so much more time,'' Lewan said. ''We can either sit here and whine about it and cry about it and hear all the criticism, or we can get back to work and we've got to win a game. And when we win one, we've got to keep going off that.''
The Titans are running out of time. They have two games left on a four-game home stand that wrapped around their bye; Miami (1-3) comes to town Sunday with an interim head coach in Dan Campbell. Then they host the undefeated Atlanta Falcons (5-0) before playing three of four on the road in November.
Center Brian Schwenke said after the game that the Titans need to change their mindset after losing so many games and that they simply need to expect to win at all times.
''Go out there and make the plays, take charge and win the game,'' Schwenke said.
The sooner the better.
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