NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Coming off a 13-3 record can make a coach an optimist. That is why Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher sees the mistakes made by his Titans in a preseason loss to Dallas as good things.
Now the Titans have something to correct.
A defense that lost only one starter from a defense ranked second in the NFL in points allowed and seventh in yards allowed struggled in a 30-10 loss Friday night to the Cowboys. The Titans gave up 172 yards in 21 minutes of the first half when the starters played.
The offense wasn't much better. The starters led 10-7 when they left but gained just 17 yards on the first three drives.
"The positives were the negatives because you have to correct the negative. You have to correct the mistakes in the preseason,'' he said.
Fisher said the Titans did not game plan for the Cowboys and he even liked how his defensive starters played most of the first half. Tennessee subbed out its defensive starters from the linebackers into the secondary for the final Dallas drive.
"You want to see your defense play and play against a talented offense. Overall, there are clearly some things we need to correct and things we need to continue to work on,'' Fisher said.
The Titans must work on getting closer to the quarterback and taking him to the ground and avoiding long drives.
Defensive ends Jevon Kearse and Kyle Vanden Bosch weren't alone in beating their opponents off the snap only to be simply shoved out wide and away from Tony Romo. The Titans couldn't get off the field in a 15-play, 89-yard drive when they got Dallas to third down twice with the Cowboys converting both.
A 14-play, 63-yard drive was worse with Dallas converting three third downs and a fourth down. Luckily, a 49-yard field goal try hit off the right upright.
Linebacker Keith Bulluck said the time has come to start game planning a little in preparation for the regular season.
"Did we play good defense while we were out there? I don't think so. But first-team defense, we did good for not game planning and going up against an offense with a lot of weapons,'' he said.
Bulluck noted the Cowboys audibled and checked plays frequently at the line in attacking the Titans.
"It's always frustrating when you can't get off the field,'' Bulluck said. "But to not be able to get off the field, but to only give up 7 points, you know, it says something. That was definitely good.''
The Titans' first-team offense finished with a 10-7 lead just before Dallas drove for a quick touchdown to wrap up the first half. But Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson has 15 carries for 27 yards in limited work through three exhibitions, giving him a 1.8-yard per carry average that is the worst among the top four backs on the roster.
Not that Fisher is worried that the speedy running back has been figured out.
"Well, the numbers speak for themselves,'' Fisher said. "But I'm not concerned about it because basically we've got the same people doing what we were doing last year, and we were effective. With some tweaks and some of the schematic things I think things will improve.''
The Titans are feeling some urgency to hold onto the ball more and score more points after the starting offense had only one drive longer than four plays against Dallas. They visit Cleveland on Saturday night, then wrap up the preseason Sept. 3 against Green Bay with the clock ticking toward the NFL opener Sept. 10 at Pittsburgh.
"We're not panicking right now, but we definitely have some things to work on, and get fixed before the opener against Pittsburgh,'' fullback Ahmard Hall said.