NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Titans appeared to be sitting pretty at 5-2, atop the AFC South and scoring more points than anyone else in the NFL. Five consecutive losses later, they find themselves trying to right the ship, looking for answers -- and to keep their playoff hopes alive Thursday night vs. Indianapolis.
The Titans deny they have quit. They also insist they haven't been distracted by adding Randy Moss, Vince Young's histrionics after a season-ending thumb injury, the offensive coordinator's cancer diagnosis and even cornerback Cortland Finnegan's brawl with Andre Johnson.
Finnegan says he never could've imagined such a fall.
"Absolutely not. We were rocking and rolling at 5-2, felt good. Confident football team, and we were executing and it goes back to that,'' he said. "Guys, myself included, have to start executing. You start doing that you start winning.''
The Titans still believe they have a great team.
"You saw that at the beginning of the year,'' safety Michael Griffin said. "People were talking about us highly. To see us go from a (5-2) record and haven't even won a ballgame since, I don't even know it's been so long ... that's crazy. Last year we started out real slow, and it seems like we just reversed it this year. We started out quickly, and we reversed it.''
The Titans opened 2009 with an 0-6 skid only to rebound by winning five straight. With their fifth straight loss Sunday 17-6 to Jacksonville, the Titans are where they were a year ago at 5-7 going into Thursday night's game.
Asked if his team expects to flip a switch, Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he's focusing only on the Colts.
"We need to win the next game, period. That's it,'' Fisher said.
It seemed so easy when the Titans walked off their home field Oct. 24 after a 37-19 win over Philadelphia, though they had disguised some problems during their quick start.
With defenses targeting Chris Johnson, the offense has been unable to put together long drives or run clock to protect a lead during the losing streak. Even in that last win back in October the Titans needed a franchise-record 27 points in the fourth quarter to get past an Eagles' team playing without Michael Vick. Tennessee's Kenny Britt had the NFL's best game by a receiver that day with 225 yards receiving, a number that still stands.
Then Britt strained his right hamstring, vince Young was injured and it's been a roller-coaster ride ever since.
Despite the mounting losses, Collins said all the distractions haven't hurt the team.
"Those things, to me, go on during the week. On Sunday, you have got to be able to focus. That is just part of it,'' Collins said. "That happens all over the NFL. I don't sense that from our team. I sense that guys are focusing into it. We have just got to make more plays.''
The playoffs still remain mathematically possible. The Titans would need to win their remaining four games and have Jacksonville lose its two division games at Indianapolis and Houston.
Fisher is remaining optimistic, even when asked if this is his most difficult season as head coach.
"The last few weeks have been a challenge, but I like to think that is when we do our best work is when we're facing challenges ...,'' Fisher said. "That's the approach you have to take.''