|The Titans are hoping to extend more drives than they have early on this season.|
Only one NFL team has had more offensive possessions than Tennessee, but the Titans go three-and-out a full third of the time even though they have the NFL's leading rusher in Chris Johnson. Worse, they haven't picked up a first down in the first quarter of their past two games.
Coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesday it's a combination of things leading to the struggles.
"You credit the defense here, they make a play. We throw an incomplete pass, and we drop a ball a lot. It had to do with the drops in New York. It's just one of those areas we're trying to improve on," Fisher said.
Keeping drives alive will be crucial Sunday night if the Titans (0-4) want to limit Peyton Manning's chances for the Colts (4-0).
"We have got to keep ourselves in manageable third downs," center Kevin Mawae said. We don't want third and longs. We've got to keep moving the sticks. We get in the red zone, we've got to score touchdowns. We can't rely on three points. We're playing a great opponent. Peyton Manning and those guys, they have a score-a-minute touchdown."
At this point for Tennessee, stringing together some first downs would be a nice improvement.
The Titans have had 51 offensive series through four games and gone three-and-out on 17 -- or a full third of the time they take the field on offense. Only Cleveland has had one more offensive series. In a 24-17 loss at the New York Jets, The Titans had six three-and-outs with five more in last week's 37-17 loss at Jacksonville.
In each game, Tennessee trailed 14-0 and 10-0 before gaining its first first down. The Titans came back with a 10-play drive for a touchdown in New York and a 14-play possession in Jacksonville led to a field goal. Johnson said they want to eliminate that.
"We have to do the little things right, execute and get on those third downs," he said.
Struggling to gain a first down doesn't doom a team. Just see the winning records posted by Minnesota (35.4 percent), the Jets (35.8 percent) or San Francisco (40 percent) -- all teams with as many or more three-and-outs.
Colts coach Jim Caldwell isn't taking the Titans lightly.
"We know as we look at them on film, that they're a team that you better get ready to play because they're tough and hardnosed, and can certainly create havoc," Caldwell said.
The Titans are having success on third downs, tied for 14th in the NFL at a rate of 38.9 percent (21-of-54). Kerry Collins, who is completing just 53.8 percent of his third-down passes, said the good thing is the mistakes are correctable.
"It's always a work in progress," Collins said. "Third downs are definitely one of the things we need to be better at. It's unfortunate that there were some opportunities I could've made Sunday and didn't make them. As an offense, we all see there are things we can do better on third down, and we need to."
NOTES: Cornerback Cortland Finnegan was limited but practiced Wednesday after an injured right hamstring kept him out of last week's loss in Jacksonville. Cornerback Nick Harper, the other starter, sat out with sore ribs, but Fisher said they hope he can practice this week. Receiver Nate Washington (concussion) practiced. Linebackers Keith Bulluck (knee) and Stanford Keglar (hamstring) were limited. Defensive tackle Jason Jones (shoulder) and linebacker Colin Allred (shoulder) also sat out.