NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A penalty here, an incomplete pass there or simply good defense. Pick a reason, the Tennessee Titans have struggled with those issues this season.
Sometimes all in the same drive.
It's all part of the inconsistency for a team that can score points in bunches only to bog down when the game's on the line. That's why the Titans (5-8) have lost seven of nine, including two straight.
Ryan Fitzpatrick said Wednesday they keep working to improve their consistency every day knowing how those setbacks have hurt whether coming on first, second or third down.
"That's a big focus for us, just getting onto the next play," Fitzpatrick said. "Forgetting about what happened, going out there trying to sustain drives. Last game we scored 28, but we had some opportunities that we really missed out on. Had some three-and-outs and some short drives and some turnovers that definitely affected the outcome of the game."
The Titans scored on their first two drives and were up 21-10 before losing 51-28 in Denver last week. They also scored on their first two possessions Nov. 14 when they jumped out to a 17-3 lead over Indianapolis only to lose 30-27.
In Denver, the Titans went three-and-out four times before punting with another drive ended on an interception when they still had a lead in the third quarter. Yet the Titans rank sixth in the NFL on third-down efficiency for the season, and they've also had 10 drives of at least 10 plays or longer in four of their five wins.
Only once in their losses have they had more than two drives in any single game, and the Titans blew the lead over Indianapolis that night.
Tennessee is outscoring opponents only in the first quarter barely (58-55) and again in the fourth (122-108). The late points haven't helped because the Titans are 1-7 when trailing after three quarters this season.
Titans coach Mike Munchak, also busy dealing with speculation over whether he keeps his job after this season, said it's frustrating because they felt they could have had two or three more touchdowns in last week's 51-28 loss at Denver if not for a holding call on one drive, a missed block here and a rare fumble lost by Chris Johnson.
"Upsetting is an easy word for me, for all of us to watch plays that are there that we're just not executing at times," Munchak said.
The Titans should get tight end Delanie Walker back Sunday after he missed most of two games with a concussion. He is having his best season yet with 45 catches and five touchdowns.
They'll need Walker because the task doesn't get any easier Sunday. The Cardinals (8-5) have been the NFL's stingiest defense the past few weeks, and John Abraham, who talked with the Titans before signing with Arizona, had a disruptive game last week with three sacks, a forced fumble and a safety.
The Titans also have had trouble finding a rhythm splitting carries between Chris Johnson with Shonn Greene. When one of the running backs starts ripping off some yards, he heads to the sideline in a switch with any momentum in a drive disappearing quickly.
"Sometimes it works the way you like, and sometimes you can sit back and say, 'Well, maybe he should have gotten a couple more carries here or there,'" Munchak said. "That's going to be the challenge the next three weeks."
Notes: Munchak said he knows it's fun to talk about the future and speculate on what might happen but that won't help the Titans win Sunday. The coach said again that his focus is on the final three games before pitching president and chief executive officer Tommy Smith the changes he'd make this offseason. Munchak said the team is in better shape than it's been in his three seasons but still has some areas that need to be fixed.. ... S Bernard Pollard was given a day off for rest. LB Akeem Ayers (groin), DT Karl Klug (back), LG Andy Levitre (hip) and CB Alterraun Verner (groin) did not practice. RB/KR Leon Washington (ankle) was limited.
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