NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Albert Haynesworth warmed up before kickoff, then felt a twinge in his right hamstring. The cautious Titans sidelined him another week.
It only seems like that's the moment Tennessee lost its third straight game.
The team that sprinted to a 6-2 start with Haynesworth having a career season now finds itself in a thee-game skid, its longest since losing the first five of 2006. Following Sunday's 35-6 loss to Cincinnati, the Titans (6-5) trail Cleveland (7-4) for the AFC's final wild card berth.
Haynesworth and the Titans hope he can play Sunday when the Houston Texans (5-6) visit, a must-win game that might help determine the defensive tackle's true value to this team.
``It's hard to quantify,'' Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Monday. ``We might be able to answer the question in a different fashion after he returns, and we'll see what happens.''
Pinning the losses on Haynesworth's absence would be easy. The Titans had not allowed more than 99 yards rushing with Haynesworth; they have given up an average of 160 without him. They have been outscored 97-39 in this stretch.
The defensive tackle doesn't believe his absence has been their biggest problem.
``I think it's the attitude. You watch the first eight games, you know we had a lot of attitude. Now we're just out there to be out there,'' Haynesworth said after the loss to the Bengals. ``We just need the attitude back, whatever it takes.''
With Haynesworth, the Titans were physical and attacked quarterbacks relentlessly, getting sacks with a four-man rush. He drew double-teams freeing up teammates or simply collapsed the interior of offensive lines by himself. In the last two games he played, the Titans had 12 sacks.
Without Haynesworth, the Titans can't get close enough to pressure quarterbacks without blitzing and have only three sacks. Opponents have exploited his absence by running up the middle. The Bengals did the same while rolling up 426 total yards.
Haynesworth hasn't been the only missing starter during the streak. Cornerback Nick Harper sat out the previous week's 34-20 loss to Denver with a concussion, and safety Chris Hope was lost to a concussion late in the first quarter in Cincinnati.
Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who had Tennessee's lone sack in Cincinnati, said he had no answers.
``It's not a scheme thing. It's more a technique thing,'' he said. ``We're not tackling well. We're just getting beat in a lot of different areas. It's not one thing we have to fix. It's a number of things.''
Linebacker Keith Bulluck said the Titans must decide what they want to be with their backs against the wall.
``Are we going to be the team that came out the first half of the season this year, or are we going to be the team that came out the first half of the season last year?'' he asked.
``Right now we look like the team of the first half of the season last year. But that all can be changed because we've already played great football at one point in the year. Right now we're in a little lull. I'm not concerned our players won't get the point and realize what we have to do.''
Defense is only part of Tennessee's problems.
LenDale White rushed for 100 yards in three straight games but has 81 yards rushing combined in the losses. The Titans have trailed by double digits in each loss, forcing them to throw.
Vince Young has responded, but he missed open receivers in the end zone Sunday when the offense hit rock bottom. They got inside the Bengals 20 five times and had goal-to-go three times only to settle for two field goals, lose a fumble and turn it over on downs.
Following Sunday's loss, Fisher didn't have any answers. A day later, he said the Titans are doing the same things that worked the first eight games.
``We're at a point right now where we have to improve,'' Fisher said. ``We have to be able to put this, whatever it is, behind us and go out and score points, have fun and enjoy the game, make plays and find a way to win.''
Sports Insights' Advanced Betting Tools - NFL Free 14-Day Trial

NFL Team Pages

Recent NFL Discussions