At 0-4, Jeff Fisher is trying to sell to his Tennessee Titans that a new 12-game season begins Sunday night for his team against the Indianapolis Colts.
Whether that idea catches on for a break-through win against the Colts or eventually helps propel the Titans out of their early-season tailspin remains to be seen.
But running back LenDale White called Sunday night’s primetime AFC South matchup what it really is for Tennessee hanging-by-a-thread 2009 season.
“Our mindset is we need a win. This is a must-win. It’s like a one-game playoff in a sense,” White said. You don’t want to put that pressure on you right now, but we’ve got to win. We can try to kid ourselves and say we don’t need this victory, but we need this win.”
White is right, of course, if history is any indication. Only the 1992 San Diego Chargers shook off an 0-4 start to reach the postseason.
Fisher is trying his best to put a positive spin on Sunday night being a new beginning, even if the real standings still show Tennessee in the AFC South basement already four games behind the Colts.
“I think if you look at it from this standpoint, this is the first game of the new season then yeah, it does,” Fisher said. “We get to open at home against a division opponent in front of the nation. I mean, that’s a good way to look at if you can forget about everything that’s happened the last four weeks.”
But the last four weeks did happen. And now a sense of urgency exists, especially after last week’s 37-17 loss to Jacksonville exposed the slow start as more than just bad luck or little mistakes.
Plus, if the Titans don’t pull the upset on Sunday night, they will be off to their second 0-5 start in four years. This year’s beginning is worse than that one, says quarterback Kerry Collins, simply for the fact the Titans were expected to be among the NFL’s top teams this season. Instead, they find themselves now among the ranks with perennial bottom-feeders like Kansas City, Cleveland and St. Louis.
“We started off poorly a few years ago, but I think the expectations were higher for this team than they were then,” Collins said. “It’s frustrating and you’ve got to worry about trying to do too much. You’ve just got to go play and be loose, but understand that there is a sense of urgency to turn this thing around.”
It certainly won’t be easy as the Titans are trying to patch holes on the fly, looking for more consistency on offense, while trying to solve the many breakdowns on defense and special teams with an undefeated Colts team coming to town.
The defense, which has given up 300-yard passing games to three of four opponents this year, faces Peyton Manning at a time when he has thrown for 300-yard in each of Indy’s four wins thus far.
Linebacker Keith Bulluck says the defense has to get fixed and fixed quickly enough not to be a weak spot on the club.
“We as a defense, we’ve got to take it upon ourselves to get better, because right now, we are definitely a weak spot, and one thing that we always took pride in was not being the weakest link,” Bulluck said.
For the Titans, Bulluck says the have to do whatever it takes to get in the win column on Sunday night.
“Right now at 0-4, talk is cheap. Anything that really means anything can only be done on the field. … It’s us versus them. It’s your will to be successful over your opponent,” he said.