TERESA M. WALKER,AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Disappointed. Upset. Frustrated. Embarrassed. Gloomy.
The Tennessee Titans are wallowing in their emotions after an ugly and inept start to the season that has them winless after two games.
They knew the opening month would be tough, having to face Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers — with Matthew Stafford and Matt Schaub looming. Just not this tough.
The Titans have been dominated by a combined score of 72-23 following a 38-10 bashing at San Diego Sunday. They can’t run, throw or get off the field on defense and already are at the bottom of several statistical categories just two weeks into the season.
Coach Mike Munchak is preaching patience, pointing to a couple plays here or there where Tennessee could have swung games. As far as personnel changes, the second-year head coach said Monday his best players already are on the field.
“When you’re not winning when you’re 0-2, you’re always going to look at everything,” Munchak said Monday. “Everything always seems worse than it really is. It’s not as hard to fix things as you may think.”
The good news for Tennessee is that there’s almost nowhere else to go but up.
A running game that was next to last in the league last season now has dropped that last spot to No. 32 overall, and Chris Johnson is been outrushed by his own quarterback in each of the first two games. Johnson has just 21 yards on 19 carries so far, while Jake Locker at least has run for 32 yards on four rushes.
The Titans are 31st averaging a measly 248 yards per game and last in both points and first downs per game.
Locker played poorly in his first road start at San Diego with his first pass intercepted as he heaved the ball off his back foot under pressure. He threw a short pass to Johnson’s feet on another time and wound up 15-of-30 for 174 yards. The Titans wound up converting only 1 of 9 third downs and held the ball only 16 minutes, 21 seconds.
Munchak refuses to second-guess the decision to turn the offense over to the eighth pick overall in 2011.
“If we didn’t think he could help us win these two games, he wouldn’t have started so I’ll just leave it at that. I she making mistakes because he’s a rookie or first-year starter? I don’t’ know. I she throwing a bad ball because it’s the first time he’s played on the road? I don’t buy into any of that stuff.”
Tight end Jared Cook said they have every confidence in Locker as their quarterback and their biggest issues have been not getting enough yardage on first and second downs.
“We know we can get better,” Cook said. “We know we’re a better team.”
With the offense spending so little time with the ball in their hands, the Chargers needed to make only 28 tackles as a team. The Titans had to make 90 and spending more than 43 minutes on the field wore out a defense that sacked Philip Rivers four times and intercepted him once for the few highlights Munchak pointed out during Monday’s team meeting.
Still, the Titans are allowing 36 points a game, more than all but two other NFL teams. No team allows more first downs per game.
Munchak said just one win would help tremendously. It won’t be easy because the struggling Titans host Detroit (1-1) Sunday before visiting Houston and Minnesota. They won’t be home again after this game until Oct. 11 when they host Pittsburgh.
The Titans were without defensive captain and middle linebacker Colin McCarthy in San Diego, and he still had a walking boot on his right foot during the game. They also are using a new safety combination with Michael Griffin playing close to the line at strong safety while Robert Johnson has gotten the first two starts of his career at free the bulk of his career.
Munchak isn’t changing that combination, even though Jordan Babineaux led the team in tackles playing strong safety last season.
“We’re starting off not playing the thought we would so does that mean we panic? No definitely not,” Munchak said. “We have too much work ahead of us. There’s too much football to be played yet.”
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