NASHVILLE, Tenn. -Vince Young ducked the question over whether Tennessee got too conservative on offense protecting a lead against Denver, referring questions to his coach and offensive coordinator.
So coach Jeff Fisher, do you need to throw the ball more?
Fisher said Monday the Titans did throw the ball a bunch in the 26-20 loss to the Broncos, ran it well and can do both better. Then what problems led to Tennessee (2-2) producing only 46 yards offense and going 0 for 5 on third-down conversions in the second half when the Titans held the ball a mere 9 minutes, 9 seconds?
Fisher says it was a combination of the Titans offense and the opposing defense.
"It's a breakdown here or there, penetration. Defenses are doing a real good job edging right now. It's hard to get CJ (Chris Johnson) an opportunity to bounce outside and force some cutbacks, and they're anchoring. We're just going to have to stick with it, and pick the ball up and put it down the field a little more just to give us an opportunity,'' Fisher said.
Throwing the ball more - and catching it better - might help.
The Titans haven't thrown more than 38 passes in a game this season, and Young's 71 pass attempts are the fewest of any NFL quarterback who has started all four games. With Johnson running the ball, the Titans are very much a run-first offense. They threw more than 38 times in a win just once last season.
Fisher defended his offense by noting Young completed 60 percent of his passes with a touchdown pass and no interceptions. Young was 17 of 28 for 173 yards with a long of 25 and a passer rating of 90.3 against the Broncos. The Titans averaged 5.5 yards per carry with 121 yards rushing, which is good for most NFL teams.
"The game should have been won,'' Fisher said.
One thing is certain. The Titans got shut down by Denver in a blueprint others will surely try to follow starting with Dallas (1-2) on Sunday.
The Titans moved the ball well early, outgaining Denver 115-15 in the first quarter. Poor starting field position in the second half didn't help. Tennessee started one drive at the end of the third quarter at their own 9 and another in the fourth quarter at their own 4.
They wasted their best field position - at the Tennessee 35 after Michael Griffin's interception with 9:48 left - with a drive that featured Javon Ringer stopped for a 4-yard loss. Young completed a 10-yard pass to NateWashington only to miss tight end Jared Cook on a deep pass and force another three-and-out.
"We just didn't execute it,'' Fisher said. "I think it was more of us, we had opportunities.''
Just not that many.
The Titans ran only 20 of their 52 offensive plays in the second half, and Young threw on half of those. He placed a deep throw almost perfectly into Kenny Britt's arms within the final minute, but the receiver couldn't hold onto the ball.
Washington didn't say much after the game on the offense's problems except to agree the Titans stalled. He also dodged the question of whether Tennessee became too conservative.
"That's not my call. It's on the coaches. I don't really know what the logic of the play calling, but it's something we have to run and we have to do a better job of closing out,'' Washington said.
The Titans better figure out a way to throw the ball better. They rank 29th in the NFL, averaging 152.3 yards per game. It won't be easy because Fisher said starting receiver Justin Gage may miss some time with an injured left hamstring.
Four of the next five games are on the road with a prime-time game with Jacksonville (2-2) on Oct. 18 and trips to San Diego (2-2) and Miami (2-1) wrapped around a home game with Philadelphia (2-2) on Oct. 24.
"This one becomes much more important now,'' Fisher said.