Members of the Tennessee Titans defense did not have to look hard to find something positive about their performance Saturday.
Never mind that they allowed the Chicago Bears to rack up 27 first downs (on 75 offensive plays) convert nine of 16 third-down attempts and hold the ball for more than 35 minutes.
All Titans defenders had to do was look at the scoreboard. Chicago scored 13 points.
“They had their chances where they got yards at times … and we need to get better from that,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “I think ultimately when you give up [one touchdown] and we hold them to a minimum of points … it was a good test for us.”
At the end of play Saturday, Tennessee’s defense led all NFL teams that had played three times for the fewest points allowed (33).
If that unit maintains that pace through Thursday’s finale at New Orleans, it will set the franchise record for fewest allowed in a four-game preseason. The 2004 Titans gave up 45 points.
The Saints, who played at Oakland on Sunday, averaged 19 points in their first two contests.
“For as lopsided as it was in every category we were right there with an opportunity to, if it was a regular game, to win the game in the second half like we did,” coach Mike Munchak said. “…We have had the least amount of points given up on defense, I think turnovers are good and we have handled the ball very well. I think we have five takeaways and one turnover in three games, so we are doing some of those things nice.”
• Dual threat: It was not credited as either a rush or a reception, but punter Chad Cunningham’s dash around left end was the Titans’ second-longest gain Saturday.
With 3:41 remaining, Cunningham had a punt blocked but recovered it on one hop and ran for a first down. That allowed Tennessee to run another two-plus minutes off the clock and forced the Bears to use their final two turnovers.
Munchak joked that the rookie free agent looked like an option at running back.
“I was thinking, ‘Let’s put him in’ with the way he hit that hole and he got that ball,” Munchak said. “I said, ‘Wow, who is that carrying the ball?’ That was an exciting play for him and for us. That was just making a play and that was a big play in the game that I’m sure he wasn’t expecting to make, but I’m very happy he did.”
The only play that went for more yards was a 21-yard pass from quarterback Matt Hasselback to wide receiver Nate Washington.
• Limited opportunity: Veteran wide receiver Kevin Curtis, signed by the Titans on Friday, was in uniform for Saturday’s game with the Bears but did not play.
He will practice with the team this week and see some action in the final preseason contest, Thursday at New Orleans.
“That is how this league is though; sometimes you only get a few days or one game to make some decisions,” Munchak said. “[Curtis] has been in the last couple of days and he has been in the book with the coaches and he will have an opportunity starting [Monday] to get on the field. We will see where we are at.”
• Injury update: Defensive end Jacob Ford (hamstring) and wide receiver/returner Marc Mariani (ankle), both injured against Chicago, are not expected to play against the Saints.
Also expected to remain sidelined are defensive end Derrick Morgan (knee), defensive end Jason Jones (knee), running back Javon Ringer (hip) and tackle Troy Kropog (knee).
Wide receiver Kenny Britt (hamstring) and offensive lineman Kevin Matthews (ankle) are expected back in action.
• Cuts coming: The league’s two mandatory cut dates are this week. Teams must reduce rosters to a maximum of 75 (the current limit is 90) on Tuesday. Then on Saturday teams must get to the regular-season 53-man limit.
Munchak said the Titans likely would make many of their initial cuts Monday.
“We are starting the week and we want to move forward,” he said. “…I would imagine we would start getting things going [Monday].”