Mike Munchak was pleased with the way the Tennessee Titans responded in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Titans rallied from 17 points down, getting two MIchael Preston touchdowns and a Rob Bironas field goal in the final 3:01 to force overtime, only to lose 37-34 in OT, extinguishing their playoff hopes in the process.
What Munchak wasn't pleased with of course, was that once again the Titans could not finish the game and lost for the eighth time in 10 games, falling to 5-9 on the season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had recovered from an earlier pick six by Antoine Cason that put the Titans in a 34-17 hole, brought the Titans back in the final period, but his critical overtime interception doomed Tennessee to yet another loss. The Titans are now 1-6 in games Fitzpatrick has started this season.
"We have to make that play there and we didn't make it. We talk about it all the time, and that's the difference right there. We needed it second-and-10 at the worst," Munchak said. "The game wasn't over.They got the ball at our 45-yard line. We had plenty of opportunity to stop them and get a three-and-out and get the ball back. A lot of things could have happened, but again when the time was there to make that play, we didn't make it."
Munchak said he never doubted the Titans' effort.
"I told them after the game that I was proud of them, and always have been. I knew that would never be a concern I'd have as far as their approach the game. … I thought that it was a great testament to them as a group that they weren't going to let the game end the way it was," Munchak said Monday. "Guys started making plays, starting making the catches and getting out of bounds. We got an onside kick. Guys stepped up and the rally was on. It was good to see that side of them."
But Munchak, who is fighting to prove to general manager Ruston Webster and new team president Tommy Smith that he deserves to return in 2014, knows the NFL is a bottom line business. He knows that the comeback showed plenty of heart and character, but it still doesn't count for enough since the Titans faltered in overtime.
"That's a characteristic that's good to see, but the bottom line in this league is winning. We all know that. They still don't feel great about that game, because we didn't win it. We have two more opportunities is all we have and we have to win two more games," Munchak said.
Brown, Gooden competition
Munchak indicated Monday that linebacker Zach Brown now finds himself in a competition with rookie Zaviar Gooden in order to retain his starting weak side linebacker spot. Brown was pulled in the first quarter of Sunday and did not return to the defense.
Munchak said Brown has not lived up to in recent weeks to the high expectations the Titans had for him, based on the way he finished his rookie season.
"We have high expectations for Zach. I think we all do. Last year, he came on strong at the last part of the year with some big plays, with some sacks, and some interceptions. Things kind of feel his way at the end of the season, so we expected a lot from him.
"We feel the last few weeks isn't quite what we want to see. Zaviar has been healthy now for a while, and he has been getting a few more reps. We just wanted to create a little competition there. When the game started off, we felt he was a little flat. So we put Zaviar in there, and we felt he was pretty solid."
Munchak said Brown has been "inconsistent" and "just needs to play better."
Still not saying
A day later, Munchak still wasn't willing to reveal the exact violations that kept Damian Williams and Justin Hunter from playing on Sunday, except to say that the team rules violation occurred on Saturday.
"Guys have to learn how to make better decisions. It was very unnecessary, and they understand that now," Munchak said.
Munchak said he did not like being put in that position of deactivating both players, but added, "They made mistake. they're sorry for it, and neither one of them played."