Mike Munchak said the Tennessee Titans never quit.
Cortland Finnegan said it was more like they never got started.
“The intensity, for whatever reason, hasn’t been there,” Finnegan said. “I think that comes from big plays and scoring touchdowns and big hits and stuff.”
Those types of things have been in noticeably short supply during back-to-back losses on either side of the bye week in which the Titans have been outscored a total of 79-21.
Consider that in losses to Pittsburgh and Houston, Tennessee has:
• not forced a fumble, let alone recovered one
• intercepted one pass and recorded one sack
• completed just one pass for 20 yards or more
• not scored a first-half touchdown
According to Munchak, the dearth of such occurrences had a direct effect on things Sunday in a 41-7 defeat that had many questioning the team’s effort and commitment. Houston led just 3-0 after one quarter but then scored four touchdowns and a field goal on its next six possessions.
“We have to find a way to get those things happening — get the turnover, get the pressure on the quarterback,” Munchak said.
In other words, it’s a matter of momentum over motivation.
“If we thought guys weren’t playing hard, we wouldn’t have them out there playing,” Munchak said. “If we saw someone going through the motions or we felt wasn’t playing to win, they shouldn’t be on the field, but I didn’t see that.
“We didn’t play well, but we weren’t quitting.”
• Regarding CJ: Munchak said he spoke to running back Chris Johnson following Sunday’s loss and that the three-time Pro Bowler did not express to him the same feelings he did to the media, when he insisted that he bore little — if any — responsibility for the Titans’ continued struggles in the run game.
“We are all part of it,” Munchak said. “I think he knows that and I don’t think he meant to say that he has stepped back and it’s everyone else’s problem. It’s all of our problems — the coaches and players and so on.”
The Titans are last in the league in rushing offense — by a wide margin — at an average of 64.3 yards per game. Johnson, at 2.9 yards per carry, is the only one among the league’s top 20 in attempts averaging fewer than 3.5 yards per rush and his one touchdown ties him for fewest among that group.
“Chris has had a great career here in three short years,” Munchak said. “I think it’s hard when you are going through a spot when I think the first time in his career where he is not having the success he has had for three years. I think a lot of athletes struggle with that concept. Again, it’s not all his fault. To run the ball well, it takes 10 other guys to help him out.”
• Injury update: Munchak said rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy (groin), who sat out Sunday, is likely to be available for the next game, this Sunday against Indianapolis. Safety Chris Hope (broken arm) is not.
Defensive end William Hayes was scratched after a back issue flared up during Friday’s workout. He showed little improvement through the weekend and his status will be evaluated throughout the week.
Wide receiver Damian Williams left Sunday’s game in the second quarter with possible concussion symptoms but was expected to be cleared for full activity this week.
• Turning down TO: Munchak adopted a ‘never say never’ attitude when asked about the team’s potential interest in adding free agent wide receiver Terrell Owens, who will conduct a workout for NFL personnel Tuesday in Southern California.
Effectively, though, the coach said the coach said his team has no interest in the talented wideout who has caused trouble in the locker room with several previous teams.
“I’m sure word will spread fast on how he does,” Munchak said. “… I think we’re interested in anyone who’s available. … In his case, he’s having a workout and he does a great job I’m sure a lot of teams will be looking to see if he’s a fit. … If he’s a perfect fit and he’d be great for us for the last eight-nine weeks then, sure, we’re going to take a look at him or anyone else like him that we think can help us.”