The Tennessee Titans have finally found a formula that has worked for them, reeling off five consecutive wins after an 0-6 start.
Part of that approach was not to worry about the playoffs, since the Titans were in effect out of contention anyway, and just concentrate on playing a better brand of football.
The strategy worked, and the Titans’ five-game winning streak has them now suddenly back on the playoff radar, just one game out of the final wild-card spot with what would appear to be a must-win game on the road against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts this week.
But just because the Titans are back on the cusp of contention doesn’t mean they're going to change the way they've been doing things.
“I don’t think of it as do-or-die. We’re 5-6 and we’re making things happen now. I thought it was do-or-die when we were 0-3 or 0-4,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “We’ve been able to turn our season around. It’s definitely not do-or-die, but we have teams looking over their shoulders. Teams that right now may already have playoff spots but need to continue to play football. … If we can go in there and play well, and get a win then next week we’ve got a lot to talk about.”
Running back Chris Johnson, who has been a big part in spurring the turnaround, was confident even when the team was 0-6 that the Titans would win out. That they are the first team to have a five-game winning streak after an 0-6 start means they are only halfway to Johnson’s prediction, which came after an ugly 59-0 embarrassment at New England.
“There’s no pressure. We’re 5-6. We don’t have anything to lose,” Johnson said. “We’re just going out there trying to win games. I was the first one to say we were going to win these last 10 games, and everybody was looking at me crazy. But now they’re starting to see that it can be very possible.”
Every game is a playoff game
Of course, the Titans know that basically every game is like a playoff game for them now as they strive to return from oblivion to contention.
So the focus is on the task at hand only. And that’s how the Titans have taken each game during their winning streak.
“I think that’s the only attitude we can have right now,” defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “The reality is if we don’t win this one, it’s not gonna happen for us, or it’s gonna be very difficult. We really can’t afford to look at the big picture. We have to look at this game as a must win for this team. And basically every game at this point is a playoff game.”
The Colts have already wrapped up the division championship, have won 20 straight regular-season games and are closing in on home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
Still, since they are already in the postseason, Bulluck reasons that the Titans have much more at stake in this particular game.
“They’ve already wrapped up the South. Maybe they’re just playing to break some more records,” Bulluck said. “Us, we’re 5-6 and we’re just trying to get back to .500 in December. So we’ve definitely got a lot more riding on this than them.”
But for the Titans, the focus is simple. Just keep on keeping on as they have been now for five straight weeks.
“We dug ourselves such a big hole, it doesn’t matter what everyone else does, if we don’t win, the playoffs are not even a possibility,” center Kevin Mawae said.