NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Sometimes NFL backups have ample time to prepare for fill-in roles, but on other occasions backups are one play from standing on the sidelines to toeing the line of scrimmage.
Tennessee prefers to prepare its offensive linemen for the "one play away" instances each week, and that benefitted the Titans in Dallas Sunday.
Reserve Fernando Velasco practiced in place of guard Leroy Harris each day last week and played in place of Harris Sunday. When starting center Eugene Amano left the game with an injury with 7:26 to play, Velasco moved to center, and the Titans subbed in Ryan Durand at left guard and moved Velasco to center.
That was the combination when Tennessee running back Chris Johnson plunged into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown on the Titans' next possession. Starting left tackle Michael Roos said Monday that he told Durand to stay calm and that weekly preparations by offensive line coach Mike Munchak enable linemen to fill voids.
"Coach Munchak does a great job of making sure we all know what we're doing each week and all those guys that are backups study and learn as if they're going to play," Roos said. "(Being a backup) is one of the toughest things to do in the league. Every week those guys do a great job. They study, they do their part, knowing that all it takes is one play at any point in the game and you could be going in."
It was the first career start for Velasco, who had played special teams plays in the Titans' first four games this season, and first career game action for Durand, who spent all of 2009 on the practice squad.
In addition to jelling with the other linemen, Velasco also recovered a fumble by Johnson in the third quarter, keeping the Titans in field-goal range for a kick that put them up 20-17.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Velasco played well and disputed two holding penalties called against him.
"He was helping in pass protection," Fisher said. "He was active on the line of scrimmage in the run game, very physical, very stout up front."
Fisher also credited the way Munchak, an NFL Hall of Fame lineman, prepares the Tennessee squad.
"Last week (Velasco and Durand) got practice reps," Fisher said. "It's one of the few positions on the team where we're able to put backups in and get practice reps."
Corrections on Fisher's List
Six sacks and three interceptions of an opposing quarterback will make most coaches beam, but the Titans defense surrendered 511 yards of offense and three touchdowns to Dallas Sunday.
Fisher said the team is fortunate to return with a road win but has a list of corrections before Tennessee opens AFC South play at 7:30 p.m. next Monday in Jacksonville.
"We had some issues (Sunday)," Fisher said. "We gave up some passes in double coverage. We gave up some passes because of poor technique. We gave up some plays because of whatever. All these things are certainly correctable."
Fisher said stopping opponents on third down will be another area of focus and help the defense get more rest. Dallas converted 7 of 14 (50 percent) of its third downs, ran 75 offensive plays compared to 55 by Tennessee and kept the ball for 36:44.
Tennessee, Jacksonville, Houston and Indianapolis are all 3-2 in the standings and in a four-way tie for the divisional lead. The AFC South is the only division in the NFL will all of its teams tied.
"It's good for the division," Roos said. "It's a competitive division. I think any team can go from here and take the lead."
The Titans players and coaches will receive an extra day of rest, with Tuesday and Wednesday being treated as "off" days this week in preparation for Monday's game in Jacksonville. Fisher said the switch to the schedule comes at a beneficial time for the team.
"I think we're clearly going to benefit from the extra day's rest, especially our defense because they've been playing very very hard," Fisher said. "We need it. I think it comes at a great time with where we are in the season and we're just very fortunate that it's against a really good football team in a tough place to play and it's in the division."