Road a chal­lenge for Ti­tans

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - SPORTS - By TERESA M. WALKER

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Ten­nessee Ti­tans are about to find out if their act plays as well on the road as well as it has at home.

The Ti­tans are off to their best start since 2008 at 6-3, yet four of those wins have come at home, where they are 8-1 dat­ing back to last sea­son. Away from Nashville, the Ti­tans are just 2-2 with losses on the road at Hous­ton and at Mi­ami.

Now they have a short turn­around with a visit to Pitts­burgh (7-2) on Thurs­day night. It’s the first of four road games over the next five weeks as Ten­nessee chases its first play­off berth since 2008.

Ti­tans coach Mike Mu­larkey said Mon­day that re­cov­ery is the big­gest chal­lenge — not play­ing on the road — com­ing off a 24-20 win over Cincinnati.

“It’s a short week for both teams, both teams will be well pre­pared in the short time, we’ve done this be­fore,” Mu­larkey said. “There’s no mind­set, guys have just got to take care of their body when they’re not here to get ready for a short week.”

But beat­ing Pitts­burgh would be a some­what of a state­ment win.

Only two of their vic­to­ries this sea­son have come against teams cur­rently with win­ning records: 37-16 at Jack­sonville in Week 2 and a 33-27 win over Seat­tle in Week 3.

The Ti­tans have some mo­men­tum with a four-game win­ning streak, the fran­chise’s long­est since win­ning five straight in 2009. The Ti­tans, who led the NFL in scor­ing touch­downs in the red zone last sea­son, have jumped from 31st in that cat­e­gory at their bye to 10th by con­vert­ing on three chances inside the op­po­nent’s 20 in

each of their past two games.

Mu­larkey said the im­prove­ment has been due to not mak­ing mis­takes.

“Proof is in the tape that when we get all guys op­er­at­ing and do­ing their job ef­fi­ciently, we’re pretty ef­fec­tive, and not just in the red zone, I’m talk­ing about putting drives to­gether for scores,” Mu­larkey said. “It’s been very easy for us to teach off of game tape.”

The three TDs inside the Cincinnati 20 were very im­pres­sive — in­clud­ing the game-win­ner with 36 sec­onds left — con­sid­er­ing the Ben­gals lead the NFL in red zone de­fense.

“We’ve just got to con­tinue to build off of that,” Mar­i­ota said af­ter the game. “Guys made a bunch of plays in there and when you’re able to do that, when you’re able to score in the red zone, it’s huge mo­men­tum and it builds con­fi­dence.”

That’s what the young Ti­tans still need with a chance to make a state­ment be­fore a na­tional tele­vi­sion au­di­ence Thurs­day night. The Steel­ers are atop the AFC North, and Ten­nessee can fin­ish off a sweep of that di­vi­sion with a win that would be much more im­pres­sive than what­ever they might do in a visit to In­di­anapo­lis or trips to Ari­zona on Dec. 10 or San Fran­cisco on Dec. 17.

Mu­larkey is keep­ing the Ti­tans fo­cused on the task at hand with a flight to Pitts­burgh on Wed­nes­day.

“If we let that be­come a dis­trac­tion, it can be, yes,” Mu­larkey said. “This team’s pretty ma­ture and pretty good about han­dling dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions, and this won’t be any dif­fer­ent.”

Notes: Mu­larkey said Mar­i­ota has a mild an­kle sprain and a sore left shoul­der. The team es­ti­mated Mar­i­ota as lim­ited for a walk-through later Mon­day along with tight end De­lanie Walker (wrist). LG Quin­ton Spain, who has missed two games with turf toe, was ex­pected to prac­tice fully.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Ten­nessee Ti­tans quar­ter­back Mar­cus Mar­i­ota (8) falls just short of the goal line as he dives be­tween Cincinnati Ben­gals de­fend­ers Adam Jones (24) and Michael John­son (90) on Sun­day in Nashville, Tenn.

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