JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A favorite catch phrase around the NFL these days says, “It is what it is.”
And so it is, with the Tennessee Titans who are still a winless team four games into 2009, and finding many more questions than answers after Sunday’s 37-17 trouncing courtesy of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In the first three games, the alibis were that little things were preventing the Titans from winning games – an offensive mistake here, a blown defensive assignment there and the usual special teams blunders thrown in randomly – in three close losses.
But in Sunday’s embarrassment, the Titans were exposed as an 0-4 team heading deeper into the bottom of the AFC South standings. With the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots up in the next two weeks, the Tennessee’s fortunes don’t appear to be improving.
“There’s got to be an attitude change in that guys have got to get the job done,” center Kevin Mawae said. “You can’t just walk out there and throw your helmet on the field and say, ‘We went 13-3 last year. We’re the baddest dudes in town.’ Because right now, we’re 0-4 and our record shows we’re one of the worst teams in the league right now.”
There is plenty of responsibility to go around with the Titans, who spotted the Jaguars a quick 10-0 first-quarter lead and were essentially out of the running by halftime, trailing 27-3.
“We need more out of everybody. We need more out of me,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “We all need to come back to work. And everybody needs to do a little better job.”
The problems were everywhere for the Titans Sunday. For the second straight week, Tennessee dug itself an early hole, giving up Josh Scobee’s 22-yard field goal on the opening drive, then a 9-yard touchdown run to Maurice Jones-Drew.
That touchdown drive was set up on a short field after 34-yard punt return from Jacksonville’s Mike Thomas put the Jags in business at the Titans’ 35. It was indicative of what was to come for the Titans, as Jacksonville began seven different possessions in Tennessee territory.
“When we lose close games, it comes down to one play here or one play there. Today, it was a lot of plays,” defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “We need to get serious about this and fix this thing quickly. You can only say we’re a good team for so long. We’re 0-4. We’ve got the worst record in the league. Until we step up and win a game, we’re not a good team.”
The breakdowns were everywhere on defense as the game quickly spiraled downward for the Titans. The pass rush managed just two sacks – both after the outcome was largely decided. And for the third time in four games, the secondary was shredded for 300-plus yards. This time, it was the previously struggling David Garrard that torched the Titans with three-step drops. Garrard hit 13 of his first 15 passes on the way to a 27 of 37 day for 323 yards and three touchdowns.
Garrard guided Jacksonville to a 20-3 lead after Josh Scobee 50-yard field goal with 3:21 to play in the half. But after Chris Johnson lost a fumble to Reggie Nelson on the Titans next drive, the Jaguars cashed in again, going 41 yards in six plays with Garrard finding Mike Sims-Walker from 15 yards out against Jason McCourty in a touchdown originally called incomplete that replay reversed for a score and an insurmountable 27-3 halftime edge.
The Titans spent most of the second half trying to play catch-up, getting a pair of consolation touchdowns on Kerry Collins’ 14-yard TD toss to Nate Washington and a 10-yard scramble for a score from Collins with 5:28 to play, cutting the lead to 30-17.
But the Jaguars wasted no time showing who was in control on Sunday, as Garrard converted a third-and-3 play into a 33-yard touchdown toss to Marcedes Lewis, completing the thrashing of the Titans.
Collins’ final numbers were decent – 29 of 48 for 284 yards with one TD – but two interceptions hurt, and all but 61 yards came in the second half with the game already out of hand.
When it was over, a team that began the year with high expectations, suddenly has seemingly been left with low self-esteem in trying to figure out where the 2009 season has gotten off track.
“We have things we need to work on that have been adding up. It’s been accumulating on us. Teams see the bad stuff that we do,” defensive end Jevon Kearse said. “The Colts are going to watch all four games we’ve played and they’re gonna see what people are doing that’s hurting us, and they’re going to do the same thing. We’ve just got to do a good job of correcting those things, which we haven’t been doing the last couple of weeks.”
Time is now running short for the Titans to try and find an answer in time to salvage any respectability from what they thought was going to be a potential Super Bowl run.
Sunday’s loss gives the Titans their worst start since the 0-5 beginning in 2006. But that was a team with little to no expectations that managed to finish 8-8. A different circumstance than this year’s team that returned 20 of 22 starters from a 13-3 squad of a year ago.
“We started 0-5 and now we’re 0-4. Hell, when you start of 0-and-whatever, it’s a bad situation,” Mawae said. “I’m not going to compare that to this year or any other year I’ve played. This is 2009, and right now, the 2009 Tennessee Titans aren’t getting the job done.”
And at 0-4, it is what it is.