NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans were given no favors on their opening slate of games. Three out of the team's first four games are on the road with all three opponents being playoff teams from a year ago.
In Week 1 it was the Kansas City Chiefs – a test the Titans passed with flying colors in a 26-10 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
Up next is a Week 3 road trip to Paul Brown Stadium for a matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indianapolis Colts will welcome the Titans next week.
After dropping the team's Week 2 home opener to the Cowboys, the Titans are laser-focused as they look to learn from the undesirable game film from last Sunday.
"Our job is to win football games," safety Bernard Pollard said. "Obviously, we're not going to win all of them. We know and we understand that, but at the same time we don't want to put that mess that we put on film last week…we can't do that."
If the Titans are to get a win on Sunday, they'll accomplish a feat that has proven to be difficult for recent Bengals opponents. Cincinnati is currently riding a 10-game regular season home winning streak that spans over three playoff seasons.
"We want to steal victories as much as we can, as many times as we can this year. We're not focused on who's a playoff team and who's not," Pollard said. "When you step on someone's home turf they're instinct is going to be protect."
Cincinnati's offense provides Tennessee's defense with another big challenge. Andy Dalton has yet to be sacked through two games, a streak that has caught the attention of several Titans defenders.
As Titans linebacker Shaun Phillips explained, in order to rush the passer, the defense has to stop the run on first and second down.
"That's another challenge in itself," said Phillips. "We've got some guys up here who pride themselves in pass rushing and getting after the quarterback, but we can't worry about that yet. Our thing is that we didn't do very well against the run last week. We understand that rushing the quarterback is a privilege, and in order to do that you have to stop the run, so that's our focus. We'll get after the quarterback once we stop the run."
After seeing Demarco Murray run for 167 yards against them last week, the Titans expect a full serving of Bengals running backs Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Bernard posted 169 total yards last week against the Falcons and is one of two NFL running backs with 130 rushing yards and 130 receiving yards this season (Le'Veon Bell).
Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton saw Bernard twice in 2013 with the Browns and knows that the back has a rare skillset.
"He has rare ability to make you miss in the open space, he can catch the ball, he is elusive and he has really improved his blocking technique," said Horton. "I told our guys, 'don't be surprised you haven't heard his name yet because this guy is going to a featured-star running back in the league.'"
In addition to their successful ground attack and ability to keep Dalton upright through two weeks, the Bengals' offense is one of three teams without a turnover this season (Denver, Carolina).
The Titans respect the statistics, but won't back down from the challenge.
"They present a problem, but it wouldn't be NFL football if we didn't rise up to the occasion and look for that challenge and want that challenge," said Phillips.
For the offense, it's about getting off to a hot start, something the Titans have struggled with in the first two weeks of the season. The Titans have yet to score in the first quarter, but they point out it only takes one play to find a rhythm.
"You just have to keep plucking away at it," said wide receiver Nate Washington. "You try to create a game plan that will be beneficial against the defense you're playing. Unfortunately the past couple weeks it hasn't worked out for us, but like coach Whiz said it's like a snowball effect. When you get one good play in those first couple series you can get your offense rolling."
A big piece to getting the offense going will be establishing the ground game. The Titans have averaged 4.8 yards per carry through two games which ranks ninth in the league. On the other side of the coin, Tennessee is 18th in the league in attempts.
Being held to 13 attempts against the Cowboys plays a big part in that statistic, which makes it even more important to avoid playing catchup this week. Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey all figure to play a bigger role against the Bengals.
When discussing the running game, Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said finding success is more about finding the right play, rather than the right ball carrier.
"It's really what the hot plays are, maybe is more accurate representation to that," said Whisenhunt. "What we're doing well. Some games we're going to be doing it better in certain packages, and some games we're going to be doing it better in other ones, which involve different guys. I try not to get too bogged down with worrying about that. We've got a play that's working well, and we're going to continue to call it. Whoever that lucky back is, he's going to get those carries."
The Titans will put the finishing touches on their game plan at Friday's practice before flying up to Cincinnati on Saturday.