Coach Munchak's Monday Press Conference

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on if it's good that there are two more NFC opponents next since the Titans have had so much success against the NFC)

I don't know that that factors into our equation when we play them, but I hope it continues. We would like to see that happen. It's hard to figure out why that is but I hope the pattern stays the same. Going to Atlanta is going to be a great challenge and we will start working on that today. This game is what we needed. We needed to play well and we did and in a lot of areas.  It's one at a time and this was the first game of the second half and we did exactly what we needed to do and now we need to go do the same thing this weekend.

(on the success of Damian Williams)

Well I think when they drafted him, there was a lot of excitement about how he was going to come here and help us. Last year he showed flashes of it when he got opportunities, he didn't get as many opportunities last year. When Kenny (Britt) got hurt he got a chance to start and I think every week you are seeing a guy get better and better. It's confidence, it's the opportunities he is getting. He is making the tough catch like you mentioned last week, he has caught quite a few on the sidelines now and those were some great catches for us and when you see guys doing that, the quarterback gets more confident to throw the tough throw to him because he is going to go ahead and find a way to make that play. It's great to see for us. He had some drops earlier in the year on some tough catches but he did a good job of putting that behind him and moving forward and we need him to him to play big as we do other guys if we are going to make a run at this thing here in the last seven weeks.

(on the injured wide receiver group after the game)

No one got injured during the game. I think Nate (Washington) was still influenced by the injury. I don't think he was running as well as he hoped throughout the game, but he still made some nice catches and did some good things. I think we were happy to get through it the way we did.

(on if Nate Washington played fewer snaps than usual)

Some, not a whole lot, he rotated. We had a game now that we can run the ball. We ran the ball over 35 times so all of the sudden the easier to substitute in. They are not running the deep routes like we had to in some of the other games so it was easier to rotate some guys in.

(on if the running game and blocking improved)

I think it's both, but I think it's the same thing for the offensive line. The more opportunities I get to run some of the same plays, the better I am blocking it, the better I adjust to the linebackers on the second level. It's really for everybody. You get a chance to run the same play three or four times and a lot of these games we have talked about in the past when we had 12 carries, the most we would run a play maybe is twice. If they play two different looks then you are not getting a feel for how the defensive line is playing it. Are they grabbing me, can we cut them, how do we get to the linebackers? There is a lot going on out there and when you get a chance to run the ball 37 times it's good for everybody.

(on if there was any increased emphasis on technique this week with regard to blocking)

I don't think that this is the first week we have been doing that, we have been doing that since we showed up for training camp. If it's taken that long to sink in then I'm glad it's finally sinking in if that's the case. I think the coach has done a good job, we have added more time to certain periods for that reason. It's easy once you get into the season and you get too much of the X's and O's and start forgetting about the technique of the game, but I think that because we were struggling in that phase we were concentrating on the technique more so than we probably ever have over the last month. It's nice to see an opportunity and I think it just came down to opportunities and I hope guys are focused. There is no doubt that they focus each week but we gave them more opportunities. You saw the beginning of the game, we had a bunch of two, three, and four-yard runs and in the second half we got more opportunities and things started opening up more. It was fun to watch the tape, you watch the tape and you go, 'yeah, that's us. That's how we block, that's how we play.' They were playing hard, they were playing physical on both sides. We are talking about the offense now but on the offensive line we were pushing and shoving and things looked like they should look.

(on if Akeem Ayers had his best game of the season)

He may have. He did a lot of things, he was put in some good situations. They have put him in some good situations as far as rushing the passer some as a linebacker I think because of some of Jerry's (Gray) packages with this type of team. In some three down looks he was playing the fourth down lineman in some of those packages so he got more opportunities that way. You saw him get a sack. He would have had another sack but he got tackled on the one and they got the penalty. He won two or three times and beat the tackle one-on-one, which was good to see. He did a good job of getting off of blocks and beating tackles. He needed him to come up big in a game like this and he did.

(on if Colin McCarthy exceeded expectations in his first start)

Like any rookie, you don't know. I don't think he knew. When you get your first chance to start, he hasn't played in a long time because he is coming off of an injury. He was playing some of those games before he got hurt. He has been out two or three weeks where he hasn't really gotten any action. We were rotating him in, he has been playing on special teams, he has been playing some linebacker reps early in the season but obviously not starting. To see how well he handled all of that, making the calls, staying on the field as much as he did. He just got better as the game went on as far as getting the guys in the right position. He was doing a good job when the guys were lined up wrong of correcting them, so that's the type of guy we saw, the leader we saw in college when we drafted him and I think we saw a nice glimpse of that yesterday of how he will handle pressure, especially on the road and the crowd noise especially when the game started against an offense that is very explosive that was ranked fifth in the league and has a lot of weapons. He did a nice job.

(on if Colin McCarthy played well enough to take the job from Barrett Ruud)

Seeing how Barrett's (Ruud) health is going to be the first thing, he is still our linebacker. Like I said, even before if Colin (McCarthy) didn't get hurt, he was already working in to where we were using him in different packages and that's the nice thing about the defense like I have been talking about since training camp is that there is so many different packages that guys are getting to play. It's not ultimately who is starting the game, it's more or less depending on what the offense is going to play, is who gets to play more and I think they feel comfortable in different positions. Yesterday was a great opportunity for Colin, he took advantage of it, and that opened your eyes to what he can handle now. I'm sure Jerry (Gray) and the staff feels more comfortable with what he can do and what situation he can play in now. Now it's just a matter of seeing what kinds of packages we will have for Atlanta, what's the best people to have on the field and that kind of thing. I think we just move forward and see how Colin is doing and he is still definitely going to be a huge part of our defense.

(on if Barrett Ruud will be healthy enough to play next week)

I think it's the same thing, Wednesday we will see. I think having the week off definitely helped him for not just his groin and the shoulder and probably some of the other things that he has been nursing. We will see how he is Wednesday and Thursday and make sure that he can practice to the level where he can help us on Sunday.

(on the Titans beating teams that "they are supposed to beat")

Well I just think we take a business approach to it. We didn't look at it that way, we see the film and we see what they are capable of doing. I don't know if a lot of people thought that we were going to beat that team, I don't know, we don't concern ourselves with that but they were 2-6 and they were thought to really be ready to turn the page especially with what they are doing offensively. I think that's why people are so surprised with what our defense did in that game to hold them to three points and play as well as they did and make them look more ordinary than they had in the past seven games. I think it says a lot about teams to just be prepared. We are not happy with how the game went last week. The first half of last week we thought we played very well, the second half we didn't. And like I said last week at this time, give Cincinnati credit for that. The second half we didn't make plays and that's what happens, you lose. This week we went out there realizing that it is all on the line and that we have to win this football game against a team on the road and how well they were playing and how many points they were putting on the board. I think we prepared well and went down there and played well right from the beginning and we played 60 minutes and won.

(on if the Titans' defense blitzed more than usual and if that had to do with Cam Newton)

I just think the way it worked out is that we got ahead of them and so we were able to dictate a little more than the other way around where we have been behind it seems like a lot more in games this year. I think it was a mixture, I think it was just a changeup because of all the things their offense does. I think what we did well was we got pressure on first down and we got sacks on first down which put them in an uncomfortable situation. For an offense to be in second-and-18 or second-and-15 and we had some nice negative runs on the run game. We had a couple of five-yard losses on runs. We really attacked the line of scrimmage well. I thought Jerry (Gray) had a great plan for them for the different weapons they have. The players executed it and I think when the players see something working initially then we start feeding off of that as far as far as how we were attacking the line of scrimmage and playing hard and the sacks came with that with having more opportunity to rush the passer. It was fun to watch a plan come together and execute and having success from beginning to end. You never saw a lapse on the defensive side of what they were doing, you saw it maintain all the way through and if it wasn't for the turnover they may have not even scored.

(on if Shaun Smith's reduction in playing time is due to the improved play of Sen'Derrick Marks)

Yesterday was more of a factor of what personnel they had on the field. There wasn't much two-back yesterday because we got the lead on them which took them out of their base offense that they like where he would have played more. This is a game this week where they play more two-back where he will have an opportunity to help us in a big way. It was more of the groupings that they were playing in the game and the fact that we got the lead. We were in more of a nickel rush type of look with a three-down, or four-down looks than we usually are.

(on what Sen'Derrick Marks is doing now that he is healthy)

Well he is starting the last few weeks at the nose tackle position at the base against their two-back stuff so he has been getting more reps that way. He is doing a nice job in there, he is being physical, splitting the gaps, he has got some pressure, and just playing like we hoped he would.

(on how they were able to make Steve Smith a non-factor)

I think that's a credit to the secondary, to Cortland (Finnegan) and (Jason) McCourty and those guys. I think the pressure created some problems, and I think even when we didn't get sacks he was moved around, we took him off of his targets early, they had some drops early that hurt them I think to get rolling. You see what happens to any offense, here is an offense that is fifth in the league statistically and they came out and dropped a few balls, they dropped a screen, they dropped a ball and then all of the sudden we are up 17 to nothing and all of the sudden they are out of their game. It affects all teams that way. The games we didn't play well, that's what we were doing on offense, credit our defense to doing that to them. We put them in long down situations and situations that they were not used to throughout that game, offensively, first the return punt was huge by (Marc) Mariani, that was huge for us in the game then the offenses first drive we go down and score on Damian's (Williams) big play so it was a team effort, so us getting a big lead on them made it easier to take that away from him.

(on if Steve Smith took a cheap-shot at Alterraun Verner at the end of the game)

I think it got frustrating at the end of the game, there were quite a few penalties there the last two or three minutes of the game, or four minutes of the game. I think it was just frustration on their part, I don't think they expected to be in that situation on the last drive of the game, with the score being what it was, so that happens. I didn't see exactly all of that but there were obviously a lot of flags going on at that time of the game.

(on the penalties getting out of hand at the end of the game)

Well I think at the end or any time in the game, you hope that type of game can just end without penalties. It was hard to see, there was a lot of pushing and shoving in the back, a lot of guys talking back and forth, you would like all of that out of the game if you could. I think we had a couple of flags on us, I think there were four or five on them. I think the game should end a lot cleaner than that.

(on if there is more late game scuffles than usual this year)

In our games there hasn't been, this is probably the first time that we have had a game that we were behind in Pittsburgh and Houston and I don't remember a whole lot of that happening as far as having trouble with penalties. This was the first one that we have been involved with and up until that last drive I didn't think there was much of anything. I think there were just guys competing and getting frustrated. Then you saw some guys push in the back and do some silly things at the end of the game and obviously there is no place for that in a football game.

(on what drew the personal foul penalty at the end of the first half)

The usual, someone shoved one of our guys and I think he shoved one of their guys. It turned into a little push and shove and I think they saw his retaliation versus what started it all. You can't have penalties. In penalties yesterday, they thing we did a good job on if you want to look at it is that we didn't have any offside penalties. We had nothing at the line of scrimmage. For being on the road, to have no motion, no offside, our defense didn't jump offside at all, no illegal formations, none of that stuff. Unfortunately, all of our penalties were during the play, guys at some points making some bad decisions on how to finish a play or how to finish a block on special teams, we got some calls that way. That was hard. That's another one, you can't have that play. There are a lot of opportunities in that game, I could show the players a lot of clips where guys made the right decision. Their teammates made the right decision. If it was a defensive back not hitting the receiver or hitting him with his shoulder and not his head. Whatever it is, pulling off on the quarterback, we did a lot of good things, but you just can't have that two or three that can cost you a game. That play before half, they kick off at midfield because of that play and they try an onside kick because of it. Alan (Lowry) was all ready for it so we recovered and it all worked out fine but the bottom line is that could have hurt us.

(on if he had a win total in mind before the season since they are one win away from matching last year's total)

No, I think at my first press conference I think I talked about enough wins to win the division. That is our goal, and that has been our goal. I don't know how many that's going to take, obviously it's going to take a lot more than we have right now but we are in position to be able to do that. There is no number, just whatever number gets us in the playoffs.

(on if he feels the success in the running game is a sign of things to come)

I told these guys that let's just worry about Sunday. Let's not worry about what has happened the last eight weeks. For me you take the first eight weeks and you learn from it, we got used to each other there, we know our systems now, we know each other better. We did some good and we did some bad the first eight games. We were 4-4 and let's move forward. Let's put behind where we are ranked in all of these categories. All that matters now is that we find a way to win eight football games starting with the Carolina game, which we won and we ran the ball well. To me, we build off of that. That's our standard now, that's what we are capable of so we are not comparing that to three weeks ago or four weeks ago. Our struggles that we had the first seven weeks, but my point is we are not struggling. The last thing we did is we ran the football well, so our thinking is why not run it well next week and not get bogged down with what we haven't done. If it's sacks, well we have five sacks last week so let's do it again. Let's not build off that we didn't do that for four weeks, why can't we just do it again. I think you have to look at it that way. They don't always come in fives, but we are capable of doing those types of things so let's dwell on the positive that we can build off of this. If we don't do it next week then we are going to have a hard time winning. If we can't run the football and we don't get turnovers and we don't do all of the obvious stuff then it's going to be hard to beat a team in Atlanta that need to win as bad as we do.

(on Chris Johnson still not having the big home run play that people are used to)

Well I think what Chris (Johnson) did those couple of years is something that no one else in the history of the league has ever done. There was a reason that was never done in this league and people think he had so many runs of over 20 yards or whatever it was, no one else ever did that, ever. To think that is going to happen every year for Chris Johnson is not going to happen. We would like it to, there were some shots yesterday where if a guy misses or takes a wrong angle he could have had a couple of 60-yard runs yesterday but he didn't, we had a couple of 20-25 yard runs. We can't do the same thing, we can't get caught up in the fact that 'man we need to get a 60 to win.' We need to get 130 and win. We are happy with that, that's enough to win a football game, where you control the line of scrimmage. If he can bust a couple, great, but even when he was getting some big runs, we lost some games he got some big runs and so that doesn't mean you are going to win football games. I think it's getting him productive and it's us being efficient on offense that is the bottom line to win and if the big runs come then great, but just because he doesn't have big runs doesn't mean he is having a good season or that he is not having a big day or that something has changed in him. Defenses, give them credit for not allowing things to happen, it's not as easy that's why you don't see everyone in the league doing it. There are a lot of great backs in this league, not just Chris (Johnson) and it's harder to get homerun runs all of the time. We have seven games to go let's see what happens. We will sit here in seven weeks and see how we ended up.

(on the interception that Matt Hasselbeck threw)

I think it was just a tough play call versus a tough coverage.  The best part of the play was that Matt (Hasselbeck) tackled him and kept him from getting a touchdown. It ended up being a four point play because they held them to a field goal. That was the positive, but it was a bad play by us.

(on Matt Hasselbecks's bootleg play)

I'm sure we are not done seeing that, that was fun. You like to be in those kind of situations where you can have some fun in a football game and we knew that they weren't going to be watching very much for the boot from him at that point in the game so he was all excited. He loves plays like that. Luckily he didn't run hard because he probably would have pulled a hamstring or something so we are just glad he didn't. He has a lot of reasons why he didn't get it in, you heard some of them already. He was trying to kill time off the clock, he wanted (Chris Johnson) to get the touchdown, he has a lot of good answers to I will let him keep adding to that list.

(on what injuries will be on the list Wednesday)

Just the guys that didn't play in the game will still be questionable, (Dave) Ball and (Barrett) Ruud. From the game itself, I think probably (Gerald) McRath is probably one, he got the hamstring there a little bit at the end and we will just see where he is. The rest of them I think there is no one that is a big concern.

(on Dave Ball's concussion status)

He is in the concussion category so I think for him he needs to not work out and pass the test. There is a series of tests that he has to go through. I think he is feeling fine, he was feeling fine last week but he wasn't allowed to do any physical activity. Now it's him doing physical activity, not football, just working out and putting him through drills and seeing how he responds to that. I think he starts that tomorrow and then we kind of see where he is at, then he has to pass the test and make sure he gets cleared to get back on the field.

(on his early impression of the Falcons)

I have only watched them in playing common opponents, they have played some of the teams we have played. We knew what their offense is with (Michael) Turner, the quarterback, they have some great weapons and Julio Jones they drafted. They came off a tough loss yesterday in overtime so this means a lot to them too. We are going to have to get to know them real well here in the next couple of days because that's going to be a heck of a game.

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