NASHVILLE, Tenn. –The Titans (1-0) make their home debut in Week 2, welcoming the Dallas Cowboys (0-1) to LP Field. The Cowboys, who are coming off three consecutive 8-8 seasons under head coach Jason Garrett, will look to bounce back following their 28-17 Week 1 loss at home to San Francisco.
Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo held conference calls with Titans media Wednesday afternoon. Here were their major talking points last week's performance and their upcoming game in Tennessee.
The Cowboys had a nightmare of a first half in their Week 1 loss at home to the 49ers. On the game's opening possession, Cowboys running back Demarco Murray's fumble was recovered and returned for a touchdown by 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver for a touchdown.
Later in the first half, Romo threw interceptions on three consecutive Cowboys possessions, leading to a 28-3 halftime lead for San Francisco. One of the interceptions was returned to the Dallas 2-yard line and another was in the red zone from the San Francisco 5-yard line.
The Cowboys scored the only 14 points of the second half, but the damage was already done.
"San Francisco as you all know is an awfully good football team," said Garrett. "I thought we did some really good things in all three phases of our team, but we made some egregious errors with the football. We have to learn from that as a team. We know and everyone knows in this league the importance of turnovers and how they correlate to willing."
Romo explained that trying to correct their mistakes is all they can do after their opening performance.
"I think you really have to analyze the game tape and try to understand why certain things happened and correct them," he said. "You have to play better. We've got to play better because they've got a really good defense we saw watching tape of Tennessee. It's going to be a good test for us."
Romo went on to praise Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey as a player who stood out while watching game tape of last week's game against Kansas City.
The Cowboys defense has been riddled with injuries and suspensions through training camp and the first week of the season.
The laundry list reads as follow: DB Orlando Scandrick, DT Josh Brent and S Jakar Hamilton are all suspended for various reasons. LB Sean Lee is out for the season with a knee injury. LB Justin Durant is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a groin injury. DT Amobi Okoye is on the non-football injury list.
In addition, DB Barry Church, DB C.J. Spillman and DE Anthony Spencer are all listed as questionable for the game Sunday.
Durant had just recently been named a defensive captain and called the plays during the team's opener against San Francisco.
"Justin [Durant] had a really good preseason for us and played well for the early part of that game against San Francisco, but we lost him at the end of that game. Hopefully he'll be back with us soon," Garrett said.
Garrett went on to explain that he hasn't made a decision as to who will replace Durant as captain and play caller.
The losses aren't welcomed for a defense that ranked 32nd in total yards allowed (415.3 yards per game) in 2013. The Cowboys were the only team to surrender 400-plus yards per game last season.
"Whenever you have an injury you just have to put the next guy in there and hopefully we've done a good enough job preparing players so they can go in there and without skipping a beat keeping us going," Garrett explained. "The beat goes on. The next man philosophy is alive and well here."
At 6-feet-2 inches and 225 pounds, Dez Bryant is one of the most physically gifted receivers in the NFL. He is known for his strong hands and ability to break tackles. In the last two years, Bryant has combined for 2,615 yards and 25 touchdowns. Much like Jamaal Charles last week, avoiding the big play with Bryant is a big part of defending him.
"He's a fantastic player. He's a big time receiver," Garrett said in praise of his best receiver. "The best traits that Dez has are his passion for the game, his love for the game – he's a fantastic teammate and he plays the game with such great enthusiasm. It shows up on the practice field and it shows up on Sunday afternoons," said Garrett. "He's certainly one of the better guys I've been around."
An Ageless Tight End
Tight end Jason Witten is a gift that keeps on giving for Cowboys fans. Now in his 12th season in Dallas at the age of 32, Witten continues to be one of the best tight ends the NFL has to offer. Last season, Witten passed Shannon Sharpe for second all-time in receptions by a tight end. His 881 career catches trail only Tony Gonzalez (1,325).
Romo couldn't have had higher praise for the likely future Hall of Famer.
"He's a guy that's been able to play at such a high level for such a long time you almost take it for granted that, that guy, at that position is going to be there every Sunday forever. It's just a testament to his work ethic and how unbelievable he is," said Romo. "He's been as good a player as I've ever been around."
It's hard to call a Week 2 game a "must-win" but numbers never lie as they say. Per a Darren Rovell tweet on Sunday, only 12 percent of teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after starting 0-2.
Garrett said that every week has pressure built into it, regardless of record.
"Well, you get 16 chances at these games now so every one of them there's an immense amount of urgency that we have in our preparation each and every day," said Garrett. "We have a great respect for Tennessee and the players they have and the coaches they have and what they did in Week 1. Our focus is on ourselves and making sure we have a good week of preparation."
Romo didn't call it a must-win, but knows they'll have to be at their best if they want to leave LP Field with a win on Sunday.
"We have to play our best football," said Romo. "This is a very important game. We understand that we're going on the road against a very, very good defense. I don't know if they're number one in the league, but they've got to be pretty darn close. It's going to be a great test for us. When you watch them on tape, they're playing some great football. It's going to be difficult, but we've got to go in there and do what we need to do and try to figure out a way to get a win."