Keith Bulluck has been here before with a slow-starting Tennessee Titans team.
Asked Wednesday how the 2002 Titans dug out of a 1-4 hole or how the 2006 team finished 8-8 after an 0-5 beginning, Bulluck said it all centers on attitude.
“I can’t really say we have a winning attitude, because if we did, we would have won some games,” Bulluck said. “This team needs to establish themselves in this game.”
Bulluck harkened back to the ’02 team that got up off the mat and wound up in the AFC Championship Game, thanks to winning 11 of its final 12 regular season games.
He said that Titans team developed an attitude that included forcing its will upon opponents and putting them away with a “killer instinct.”
“We just got tougher than the team we were playing against. We forced our attitude and our tempo on the games we played in,” Bulluck said. “We kind of just went out there and forced the issue. Being the team that’s down and your back is against the wall, you do have a lot and we still have a lot more to play for. We’ve got to kind of go out there and force the issue, and make teams play to us and force the issue, not us play to them, and then at some point start playing the way we play.”
Bulluck recalled a hit that cornerback Samari Rolle put on Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell in that 23-14 victory that turned the Titans’ season around that year.
“Samari put a hit on Brunell on their sideline and that’s kind of what I’m talking about. It’s a matter of a hit or that play that led to Brunell going out of the game, that led to Lance Schulters making a pick,” Bulluck said. “It’s give and take. It’s an attitude. We all know this team can play football, but we have to get our kick-[expletive] attitude together. It’s one season that comes around, and we have 13 games left. As a team, we have to decide what we’re going to do.
“We know this team has the talent. It’s just a matter of taking the mentality that you’re going to put both your hands around the other team’s throat and choke them out. That’s football, and it’s a very physical game. That’s just an analogy, of course, it that’s the mentality you have to take.”
Defensive end Jevon Kearse agreed with Bulluck’s assessment that a different attitude has to develop now.
“You can tell in these first three games, we’re in the ballgame, until the end of the fourth quarter. We need to get that mentality back. We need to get them down by the neck and then keep that pressure on,” Kearse said.
Bulluck said there can be no resting on laurels from 2008 anymore.
"Because we’re 0-3, and maybe this team thought that maybe we were just going to show up and beat a couple of teams because we are who we were and they’re not whoever they’re supposed to be,” Bulluck said. “It didn’t happen that way. We got our [expletive] handed to us three weeks in a row, so it’s time to do the reverse for someone else. If that’s not enough, I don’t know what is.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of this team being physical. It’s a matter of having the killer instinct. When we get up, we have to finish a team off.”
Bulluck even issued a challenge aimed at Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew for the Titans defense, which despite the overall issues this year, is ranked No. 2 in the NFL against the run.
“Maurice Jones-Drew has been doing a tremendous job, but the way we feel around here, I would tell our fantasy people to bench Maurice Jones-Drew this week, because that’s our No. 1 task to stop him on defense and as a team to win the game,” Bulluck said.
“All fantasy football players, I would advise you to bench Maurice Jones-Drew. I’m sure he’s been doing great for you the past three weeks, tremendous numbers, but we’ve got to slow that down this week.”