Too often this season, Chris Johnson has not been willing or able to run in a straight line.
Monday afternoon, though, it was the Tennessee Titans running back who delivered some straight talk.
“I don’t believe we’re close,” he said. “You look at the games, you look at how we’re playing, we don’t look like a good team. So I wouldn’t sit here and say we’re close.”
The effort for players and coaches to accentuate the positive has become increasingly difficult with each defeat. Most, however, stuck with it Monday, a day after a 30-7 defeat at Minnesota that dropped the Titans to 1-4.
• They talked about the fact that the Titans trailed the Vikings just 13-0 at halftime. Never mind that they have yet to score a first-quarter point in any of their three road games.
• They talked about the fact that 11 games remain on the schedule, which provides more than enough opportunity to finish with a winning record and in playoff contention. Never mind that they already lost three times to AFC opponents and their 0-3 conference record is tied for the NFL’s worst.
• They pointed to missed opportunities during the games and suggested that the fact those opportunities even existed was a good thing. Forget that all four defeats have been by 21 points or more, which means that in each case there came a time when there was no chance for a victory.
“If you watch the film, things only get carried away toward the end of the game,” safety Michael Griffin said. “Coming out of halftime [Sunday] we’re down by 13 points and we kept giving up field goals and things of that nature. After a while, you go through the whole game you have to start putting points on the board and we have to stop giving up points. It goes hand-in-hand.”
Tennessee is last in the league in points allowed and 25th in points scored, although half of their 88 came in their lone victory (44-41 over Detroit in overtime). It is last in the league in point differential (minus-93), next-to-last in time of possession (25:31), and 30th overall in rushing offense (65.4 yards per game), which speaks directly to Johnson’s issues when he has the ball.
“We’re all trying to get it right,” coach Mike Munchak said. “There’s no one perfect way to do that. Hopefully, I think we have the people here — between the staff and the players — to do that. We haven’t shown that in the first five weeks. We realize that. We know we’re responsible for what’s happening out there and we’re the only ones that can fix it.”
But where to start? Perhaps with the finish.
The Titans have yet to outscore an opponent in the fourth quarter, which includes the victory over Detroit when they had 21 points in the final 15 minutes of regulation (the Lions scored 25). In their four defeats they have been outscored 37-17.
“Obviously, by the fourth quarter the game’s been getting out of hand on us,” Munchak said. “It seems like that is becoming a pattern.
“… For me, it’s not as bleak as people think. When you’re 1-4, believe me, there’s nothing good that I can sit here and say we’re happy about. … The bottom line is the Ws and the Ls and right now we have too many of the Ls.”
The record speaks volumes, even if it is not quite consistent with what most of the players and coaches have to say.
“It’s kind of crazy because it’s a different situation when you say there’s one certain thing we’ve got to fix,” Johnson said. “… It’s hard when there’s all these different situations that you’re not doing good. So it’s kind of hard to get turned around.
“We just have to keep working harder and try to get it turned around.”