Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 10/28/11
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Over the last three weeks, the Tennessee Titans have gone from one of the surprises of the NFL, with a chance to take a commanding lead in the AFC South, to middle-of-the-pack status. Such is life in the NFL. Entering Sunday's game against Indianapolis at LP Field, the Titans (3-3, 0-2) desperately need a win to avoid having their season go off the rails against the 0-7 Colts -- who are coming off a 62-7 annihilation in New Orleans. The Titans have suffered back-to-back losses to conference opponents by a collective 55 points, which would seem to render moot any questions Tennessee would take the Colts lightly. Nonetheless, the question came. "We're not playing good enough to take anyone lightly," Titans head coach Mike Munchak said on Wednesday, seemingly stating the obvious. "I don't think there's any chance of that happening. Again, turn the film on. These guys play hard. They're playing hard every snap. Always have." Perhaps the biggest shock of the NFL season is just how far the Colts have fallen with starting quarterback Peyton Manning out with a neck injury. Even amid the losses by gaudy margins Munchak had good insight into the Colts' season. In four of the Colts' game this season, they entered the fourth quarter leading either by three points or trailing by three points. With Manning, Munchak said, the Colts would have won all of those in the past. Possibly so. But the reality is that the Colts are without Manning. Initially, this game promised to bring Kerry Collins, who played for the Titans the previous five seasons, back against his old team in the city where his family continues to live. But Collins has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. The Colts' quarterback carousel has now spun to Curtis Painter, who has been respectable since taking over as the starter in Week 4. In four games, Painter has only two interceptions to go with five touchdowns and in his last three he has completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 532 yards, a total that took a hit with the measly 67 yards in last week's loss to the Saints. Painter threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-17 loss to Tampa Bay despite being sacked four times and losing a fumble. Considering that the Titans have sacked the quarterback only once in their last two games, Painter looks more dangerous in that light. Munchak defended his defense by saying circumstances -- namely being down by large margins early the last two weeks -- affected its ability to get much of a pass rush. Against Houston, the Titans defense forced punts on the first two possessions then fell down 10-0 following an interception of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. "If you watch the last two weeks when we haven't had the sacks, we were down by 21 in the second quarter," he said. "Pittsburgh max-protected eight guys if they were going to throw anything down the field or it was a three-step drop and the ball's out. "Same thing last week. We're down quickly. We get a couple of hits in the first series on the quarterback when he actually took a normal drop back. After that, it was play-action and quick throws so it was a lot harder to get the pressure. Is one sack in the last two games enough? Definitely not. They know that." So the Titans find themselves going into the game with much to fix. Primarily, there is the highly discussed topic of why running back Chris Johnson has not gotten on track. Johnson seemed relieved on Wednesday when he finally received a question that was not about himself. He was asked about facing the Colts without Manning. "Just because he's not playing doesn't mean we're going to run over them and get the victory," he said. "We still got to execute ourselves as a team." Munchak said offensively the Titans have to make plays early, as first-quarter drops by receivers have hurt them in each of the last two games. He also said they need to be more sound on numerous aspects of defense coming off the loss to Houston -- labeled by some observers the worst home loss since the franchise relocated -- and the 38-17 loss to Pittsburgh. "You lose 41-7, there's not a lot of good things going on in the game," he said. Asked if the team were -- in the questioner's words -- "pissed off, embarrassed or disappointed," the coach responded that the Titans were all three. "This game, you're competitive," Munchak said."You don't want to lose, number one. You don't want to play poorly at home to top that off. "You just want to go play. You want to get better. It starts to become a pattern when you lose two games in a row by large scores, so we have to make that go away. We have to erase that memory."
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