Commentary by Joe Biddle: Munchak must keep Titans grounded
By Joe Biddle, Columnist
It seems Titans Coach Mike Munchak has a different approach with his team through the first three games.
After a loss he needs to pump them up, preventing them from losing confidence.
In the come-from-behind 20-17 win over San Diego, it was a week Munchak had to keep the troops from believing everything they read saw and heard.
This town caught on fire after the fourth quarter dramatics supplied by the Titans offense. It culminated with Jake Locker’s perfect 34-yard game-winning strike to rookie wide receiver Justin Hunter.
Munchak has enough ammunition to use as the Titans prepare to meet the New York Jets, whose defense has been salty in a 2-1 start.
Locker & Co. will have their hands full Sunday afternoon at LP Field.
Munchak can start by cleaning up a team that gave away 116 yards on 11 penalties. Some of them were cheap calls, but the Titans did a poor job of adjusting to the way the game was being called. Some were just players going brain dead.
“It wasn’t one-sided,’’ Munchak noted during his Monday presser. “I think each phase had four penalties. It was more of us (not being able to) relax and not getting caught up with the officials and not letting that become more part of the game than it already was.
“We have to clean that up with our hands and not let things that happened in the first half affect how we played the second half.’’
With a roster containing younger, older and in-between players, it is up to team leaders to police themselves during a game. The veterans can’t lose their cool despite what is called on the field. The younger players take their lead from the veterans.
Munchak and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains also must find a way to get through to wide receiver Kenny Britt, who has been an underachiever with only five receptions for 43 yards and no touchdowns through the first three games. He was loudly booed after two drops, two penalties.
In the proper frame of mind, Britt can be a valuable weapon for quarterback Jake Locker, but that connection has not been clicking. Britt is in danger of losing playing time to Hunter, a 6-4 receiver whose upside is immeasurable.
Hunter’s feet weren’t touching the ground as he left LP Field Sunday. He will be grounded during practice this week, realizing it was hard work and attention to small details that gave Locker all the confidence he needed to call Hunter’s number on what would be the Titans’ final offensive play.
If the offensive line failed to protect Locker, and if Locker didn’t recognize the single coverage on Hunter, we wouldn’t be talking about the Titans’ most exciting win in some time.
Locker’s critics, who correctly point out his accuracy shortcomings, had to credit him with putting the pass to Hunter on the money. It was as perfect at it gets. He realized Hunter’s speed, height (6-4) and jumping ability and was able to put the ball up where only Hunter could catch it.
Locker’s learning curve is still a work in progress. The more reps he gets, the more film he dissects, the more defensive looks he gets in live action, should make him a better quarterback.
“I thought we were moving up and down the field, but we only had 10 points,’’ Muchak said. “We hurt ourselves when it came time to scoring points.’’
This was a week to bury the mistakes.
Sport Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on: 9/26/2013