It is no secret that the Tennessee Titans did not have the benefit of a traditional offseason at a time they really could have used one.
Undaunted, they won three of their first four games. As they did, coach Mike Munchak often espoused his theory that his team ultimately benefited from the limited preparation period because he and his staff ultimately chose not to overload the players with too many schemes and scenarios. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck routinely expressed his desire that they could continue to win as the offense continued to learn and grow.
The time has come for coaches to dig a little deeper into their files and for players to open their playbooks a little wider.
Sunday’s 38-17 thumping at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers was proof that opposing coaches finally have seen enough of the Titans to know what to do against them.
Keep in mind, Pittsburgh was a .500 team beset by injuries, which meant it was in prime position to have its season go South. Instead, the Steelers looked 100 percent certain of what they wanted to do in virtually every situation that arose.
They produced the longest run — 76 yards — the Titans have allowed this season. They hit on the longest pass play Tennessee has allowed this season — 40 yards. And they executed a fake punt to the tune of a 33-yard gain.
Those were, in fact, the three longest plays — period — against Tennessee in 2011 and as many gains of more than 30 yards as the first four opponents managed combined.
The long run and the fake punt both led to touchdowns. The long pass went for a touchdown — and it could have gone for a much longer gain if necessary because the throw was not to the end zone, the receiver ran there after the catch.
The Titans’ offense had scored touchdowns on three of four goal-to-go situations. So it was good news when that unit took the opening kickoff and drove to the Pittsburgh 7, where it was first-and-goal.
Once there, three attempts to throw resulted in an incompletion, a sack and a one-yard gain. Hello field goal.
Of Pittsburgh’s 25 completions, 15 (60 percent) went for first downs and five (33 percent) went for touchdowns. The Steelers’ offense converted 58 percent of the time on third down (seven out of 12).
Clearly, it is time to give opponents more to consider in their preparation.
The good news is that the Titans now enter their bye week.
In the absence of an offseason (lest anyone forgot, players were locked out from mid-March until the end of July), they now can conduct an "inseason," a two-week advanced education in the schemes of coordinators Chris Palmer and Jerry Gray. Rather than review the basics, as typically happens when there is a weekend without a game, they can add formations and variations and deviations from what has become the norm.
When the Titans take the field again they will do so against the Houston Texans in a matchup for first place in the AFC South.
The off week affords the Titans an opportunity to get a real leg up on the Texans. Afterall, Houston is in its sixth season under coach Gary Kubiak so there is little uncertainty about that team or its personnel, although it has taken a new approach to defense this season.
Knowledge is — as we all know — power. Pittsburgh looked as if it knew all it needed and it made the Titans look meek for most of the day.
Munchak and Co. have two weeks to impart additional knowledge … and to get the opposition guessing again.