NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have lost five of their last six games and are hoping to turn things around down the stretch with one simple message: The playoffs start now.
A franchise that last reached postseason in 2008 sees the remaining six games all as postseason contests. The Titans have lost two straight, including a 30-27 loss to Indianapolis on Thursday night that ended hopes of challenging for the AFC South title. Tennessee remains confident and points to four losses by seven points or less as a sign of how close the team is winning.
Coach Mike Munchak said Friday the Titans (4-6) understand the challenge ahead. They start a three-game road trip Nov. 24 at Oakland with trips to Indianapolis and Denver, and four of their final six are away from home.
"We know we're probably the only ones that believe we can do it," Munchak said. "You hear about teams every year that do something, and so it's kind of our turn to show we can do it."
Safety Michael Griffin, one of only seven Titans left on the roster from this franchise's last playoff appearance, said they realize whether they finish 10-6, 9-7 or 8-8 lies within their hands.
"How we approach this and how we play these next six games will determine what happens in January," Griffin said.
First, the Titans are getting a long weekend off to rest up from two games in five days. They are not due back until Tuesday, and safety Bernard Pollard said they need to rest up and get their minds right for the final six games. None of the Titans are happy at being in a position where any leeway is gone.
"We have to play smarter football," Pollard said. "We dominate a team for a half, then we come back out of halftime and don't do a good job. They run the ball down our throat, they hit some tricky plays. So I just think it doesn't matter what our schedule looks like. We got six games, left, and we got six games that we need to win."
The Titans blew a 14-0 lead after the first half and a 17-6 edge at halftime. The defense that has kept Tennessee in so many games this season wilted. They allowed the Colts to put together four drives of 11 plays or more with Indianapolis simply playing keepaway for the final 2:32 of the first half and the first 6:27 of the third quarter.
By the time Tennessee touched the ball offensively again, it was midway through the third quarter and the Titans went three-and-out. The Titans allowed the Colts to run 10 times for 60 yards in an 11-play drive for the clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"We as a defense, we got to get off the field," Pollard said. "We had guys in gaps, missed tackles. Me, myself ... when I hit a guy, got to make a play. We can't allow their tight ends to squeeze by. No matter what's going on, we have to find a way to get off the field, and we didn't do that."
Offensively, the Titans did well enough in their first game with Ryan Fitzpatrick taking over at quarterback for the injured Jake Locker. Fitzpatrick was near perfect in helping the Titans jump out to the early lead using a no-huddle, hurry-up offense, and he drove them 80 yards in four plays with a 19-yard TD pass to Delanie Walker with 1:54 left giving them a chance at an onside kick the Colts recovered.
For a second straight game, the Titans couldn't recover the onside kick. Munchak said they have to study harder to make fewer mistakes and more plays.
"You just can't leave games to that situation assuming that you're going to get that ball back because it doesn't happen very often," Munchak said.
Notes: Receiver Justin Hunter is being evaluated for a concussion after landing hard in the fourth quarter. ... Munchak said LB Moise Fokou has a good chance to return at Oakland and hopes C Brian Schwenke (ankle) can be back on the field next week. ... WR and returner Damian Williams (hip) remains week to week.
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