NASHVILLE, Tenn. -Tennessee is back from its bye all alone the top of the AFC South. There is still a lot of football to be played and the Titans know the half-game lead over Houston could flip Sunday when they host the Texans.
Coach Mike Munchak joked Monday that it would be nice to take off Sunday too and pick up another half-game in the division without playing.
"It's early. We all know that, but you would rather what's happening happen and we still know what we have to do this weekend starting with the Texans playing two division games in a row,'' Munchak said. "We lost our first one so this game is huge for us to come out and play well against a division opponent at home.''
The Titans (3-2) opened the season with a 16-14 loss to Jacksonville in the division. Now they host Houston (3-3) to start a three-game homestand that also features Indianapolis (0-6), and Sunday's winner takes a big step ahead in the AFC South. Houston hosts Tennessee in the regular season finale on Jan. 1, and Munchak said his team understands what's at stake in the division.
"And it won't take much for us to understand the importance of these games and how important it is for us to play well and what we can accomplish if we do win these games,'' Munchak said.
Receiver Nate Washington said the Titans know what an opportunity they have before them, and nobody in Tennessee is turning down what the Texans gave them with a 29-14 loss to Baltimore.
"It's an opportunity for us to run away with something they have given us,'' Washington said. "I think we've earned it, but at the same time with a bye week you can't deny it was given to us. And we're going to take it every week and try to keep it away from everybody else. "That's what we're going to try to hold onto this lead that we have and making sure we're doing good things every week.''
The Titans returned Monday from five straight days off and practiced on the run game and third downs. The Titans rank last in the NFL in rushing offense, and the defense is struggling getting off the field on third downs. So Munchak said they worked on fundamentals and on the running the ball better. Chris Johnson, who missed the preseason before signing his $53 million extension, has just 250 yards rushing so far.
Munchak said they studied several shots of the same play so everyone could see what the other was doing.
"Some guys may sit there and say, `Well, I thought it was the running back. No, it's the O-line. No, it's the tight end,' so I think you all realize that it's a team effort to be ranked where we are. It's all of us, from coaching to the play calling to the execution, all of that is part of it when you are dead last. We know that, we are not happy about it, and it's up to us to do something about it,'' Munchak said.
Fullback Ahmard Hall said they looked at every run to see what was going wrong.
"We've just got to execute. All 11 guys have to be on the same sheet of music. You can't have one guy doing one thing and 10 other guys doing another. Everybody has to be on the same sheet of music. It's not a one-person thing. It's not CJ. It's not me. It's not (left tackle) Mike Roos or Country (right tackle David Stewart),'' Hall said. "It's everybody.''
The Texans held Johnson to five yards on seven carries in Houston last season, but the running back had 130 yards and a touchdown against them in Nashville. Hall said they want to get Johnson back up to the numbers they're used to per game to open up the offense.
"Why not this week?'' Hall said.