The Tennessee Titans have seen this scenario before.
Riding high off a win on Sunday in Miami, the Titans now will try to do something they haven’t done since the end of the 2013 season – win consecutive games in the same season.
As lowly as that feat might seem, the Titans last accomplished it in the final two games of Mike Munchak’s tenure three years ago. To boot, they started the next year with a win in Kansas City under Ken Whisenhunt, but things quickly unraveled after that, with just five wins in a two-year span.
Now after beating the Dolphins 30-17, the Titans would appear at least to have their best chance in a while to put a “W2” or even more in the standings column that lists their current streak. Also, it would bring Tennessee back to .500 at 3-3, a mark also not seen this late in a season since 2013.
The winless Cleveland Browns come to town this Sunday, having already gone through four quarterbacks and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor under center in just five games thus far. After that, there are home games with the 2-3 Colts and the 1-3 Jaguars on the horizon. But home-field advantage has been non-existent for Tennessee recently. The Titans have gone 1-7 in at home in each of the past two years and are 0-2 on their own turf so far in 2016.
“It’s very crucial, because it could be an advantage for us. It should be an advantage for us. We definitely have to take note of that and make sure we handle our business at home,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “You’ve got three games at home, and you’re fighting to get back in the AFC South race, and you have to take care of your business.”
The Browns are still where the Titans are trying to escape from – being one of the NFL’s bottom-feeders. But the Titans can ill afford to take any team lightly, given their own 7-30 record since 2014.
Any sort of win streak would be nice, except that Coach Mike Mularkey is cautioning against the Titans getting ahead of themselves.
“I spell it out that we’ve got the Cleveland Browns coming in here Sunday, and that’s all that matters. There’s no way we’re gonna look beyond Cleveland. There’s no sense to,” Mularkey said. “We have to start something. It has to start somewhere. Our first opponent is Cleveland on Sunday, and that’s all we’re going to lock into.”
That is probably smart because history has shown that even winless teams have been a problem for Tennessee in the past. In 2011, the last time the Titans were even borderline contenders, they lost to an 0-13 Indianapolis Colts team, which all but ended any postseason hopes that year.
Two years later, the Titans were 4-4 and trying to stay above water, only to lose at home to an 0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars team. That loss proved to be the beginning of the end of the Munchak era.
“This ought to be a little momentum-kicker, and if we don’t improve from this, then we’re just going to end up in the opposite direction, and we’re not looking forward to that,” defensive end Jurrell Casey said. “We want to start to get the home-field advantage again.”
That could be easier said than done, even with the lowly Browns, who have been a thorn in the Titans’ side the past couple of seasons. Two years ago, the Titans blew a 25-point lead in losing to Cleveland at home. And last year on the road, the Titans were soundly beaten by, of all people, Johnny Manziel. So overlooking the Browns is not an option, the Titans say.
“I don’t think there’s a bad team in the NFL, regardless of their record. You can go through each game, and they very easily could have a different record. But they don’t,” defensive tackle Karl Klug said. “We’re not looking at them as a bad opponent, or any of these teams coming up. But it’s definitely an opportunity to get some wins.”