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Titans Seek Improvement During Bye Week

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mike Munchak can remember practicing in full pads for days. There was pain and soreness, and there wasn't a game to anticipate the following Sunday.

"The bye week when I played was a long week," Munchak recalled Monday. "You practiced three or four days in pads and got after it pretty good. You didn't look forward to the bye week."

Munchak, who is in his first season as Tennessee's head coach, doesn't have the option of putting his players through similar situations because of rules in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was signed before this season. He is not lamenting the changes.

Munchak, instead, wants his players to step away, take a deep breath, enjoy some family time and return with a refined focus and readiness to defend LP Field three games in a row.

The Titans (3-2) will practice Tuesday, and then players will be off Wednesday through Sunday before returning to work Oct. 17. Tennessee hosts AFC South Houston (3-2) on Oct. 23, Indianapolis (0-5) on Oct. 30 and Cincinnati (3-2) on Nov. 6.

"We know we have a great opportunity ahead of us," Munchak said, "but if we don't play better and more consistent, when you play good teams, you lose."

Tennessee lost 38-17 Sunday in Pittsburgh, snapping a three-game win streak in which they had risen to the top or near the apex of multiple defensive categories. Prior to Monday's game between Chicago and Detroit, Tennessee ranked 10th in yards allowed per game (326), fourth in yards allowed per play (4.8) and fifth in points allowed per game (18.8).

"I don't think you're ever satisfied with where you're at," Munchak said. "You can look back and say at least we're this, but I think you always want more. If you're a player or a coach you always want it to be better than it is. We'd love to be standing here and talking about the 4-and-1 Titans … but that's not how this league is."

One area Titans coaches will examine this week is how to improve Tennessee's success rate at stopping teams on third down. Opponents have converted 47 percent of the time on third down.

The other biggest area of concern will be establishing the running game. Prior to Monday's contest, Tennessee ranked last in the league with 66.6 rushing yards per game. Chris Johnson rushed for 34 yards on his first four carries against Pittsburgh Sunday, but netted just 17 yards on his final 10 rush attempts.

"I think we've been saying that it needs to get better," Munchak said. "Unfortunately we've had two or three games where we've gotten away from (the run). We started thinking (Sunday) was going to be a good day. If you only give your guy (14) carries, there's not a lot of opportunity."

Munchak said Tennessee must be more consistent on first and second down to maintain offensive balance on third down and throughout the game. He said Titans coaches saw room for improvement in the run game even in games that Tennessee won with a potent passing attack from Matt Hasselbeck.

"You want to have third-and-short (on offense)," Munchak said. "Too many of the games we've played this year, we've made it hard and overcome it because Matt's been making some great decisions in the throwing game."

Munchak said Tennessee has done a lot of good things so far this season. He said it's normal to "dwell on negatives" after a loss, but coaches do that after a win, too. He said the team is aware that it is tied for the lead in the AFC South and has an opportunity to establish separation when the Titans re-take the field.

"I think our first goal is to win the division, so you're always going to keep focused on your division and what it's going to take to win it," Munchak said. "Winning on every Sunday takes care of that."  

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