Titans hope getting back to basics helps defense

By TERESA M. WALKER - AP Sports Writer
    2013-11-21 16:29

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Titans are talking a lot about lining up properly, communicating better and improved tackling to tighten up their defense.

Translated, they want to get back to the basics.

Tennessee ranks as one of the NFL's stingier defenses in most areas. But the Titans have lost five of six with too many mistakes defending the run where they've slumped to a tie for 20th giving up 117.1 yards per game. Get them inside the 20, they're one of the league's worst.

''We just really need to get back to what we were doing early in the season,'' linebacker Akeem Ayers said. ''I think early in the season we just kept things simple, kept it basic and we communicated well. And that's the main thing we talked about just getting back to what we were doing early in the season because we believe it worked well for us.''

The Titans (4-6) need to improve on defense heading to Oakland (4-6) on Sunday where the Raiders have been running the ball very well and even using the wildcat. The Raiders rank fourth in the NFL averaging 145.4 yards per game.

Tennessee let Indianapolis run on 10 of 11 plays to help seal a 30-27 win last week.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said Thursday they've got to make sure that doesn't happen again, and he said they need to rise up and make a play to give the ball back to the offense. He said the Titans have to make sure they're not thinking so much about rushing quarterbacks that they neglect stopping the run.

''That formula was working for the first six weeks,'' Gray said. ''It's still working for good teams that understand ... We got to make sure we get back to making sure we're not pass rushing on run downs.''

Tennessee stopped the run well through the first few weeks with middle linebacker Moise Fokou helping get everyone into the right alignment and gaps. But Fokou hurt his left knee Oct. 13 at Seattle and has missed the past four games. He practiced fully Thursday and hopes to return against the Raiders, though Fokou will be limited to possibly only 25 snaps at most.

Ayers may be wearing the helmet allowing communication with coaches on the sideline. Gray said Fokou should give the Titans a little more stability, but he wants everyone to make sure they get the call right.

''Get the call called in the huddle and get everybody on the same page,'' Gray said.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said it's just a case of mental errors.

''We watched a couple films of our third downs and the last four games that we played the biggest issues that we had was misalignment or mental errors,'' Casey said. ''We can't have those if we want to win games.''

The Titans currently rank 10th in yards allowed, seventh against the pass and have allowed a league-low seven touchdown passes this season with only one allowed in the past six weeks. That just means opponents have been running through the Titans on their way to the end zone.

Tennessee has given up at least two touchdowns on the ground in each of the past four games, including three to the Colts.

''I think it's more about guys being out of position, about guys not hitting the right gap,'' coach Mike Munchak said. ''All of a sudden, you're out of position. That's what we were doing a good job this year avoiding being out of position.''

Notes: Munchak said surgery to repair QB Jake Locker's right foot went well and he is expected to be ready for the start of training camp next year. But Munchak didn't know an exact timetable yet after Wednesday's surgery. ... C Brian Schwenke (ankle) practiced fully and should play barring a setback. RT David Stewart (shoulder) and DE got a day off but is expected back Friday. DE Derrick Morgan (groin) also did not practice but is expected back Friday. WR Justin Hunter (concussion) practiced fully.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org


Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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