One down, at least seven more to go.
Munchak said Thursday beating the Baltimore Ravens 26-13 in the home opener last week was a “great step” toward getting that mojo back. He’s been telling the Titans how their stadium used to be one of the hardest places to visit in the NFL, but they didn’t get to really experience that until the home opener with the fans standing and cheering.
The key is changing from 2010 when the Titans went 3-5 at home en route to a 6-10 finish.
“A lot of guys hadn’t played here in Nashville,” Munchak said. “You tell them about it, but you tell them about the sellouts. You tell them about the crowd noise. You tell them at one time this was one of the hardest places to play. Until they experience it themselves, which they did last week, then now they realize what we’re talking about. I thought it was great. It’s a huge advantage.”
“It’s not the end of the world, but you want to win at home,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “That’s something we strive to do. Coach Munchak talks about it all the time. You want to win at home, and the fans have been a great part of that and they’re going to continue to be.”
When the Titans moved into this stadium in 1999, home couldn’t have been a friendlier place. They won the first 12 regular-season games at home along with a wild-card playoff game. Tennessee also has been nearly perfect at home when earning at least one playoff game in Nashville, going 8-0 in 1999 on the way to the Titans‘ lone Super Bowl appearance, and 7-1 in both 2000 and 2008 when earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
Giving the fans something to cheer about has been Tennessee’s biggest problem. Even with the lockout delaying the sale of single-game tickets, the Titans have extended their sellout streak now to 128 straight games since opening through Sunday against Denver.
Matt Hasselbeck watched how the home crowd helped his Seahawks turn the corner to success with support so strong they call it the 12th man. The prospect of a loud crowd keeps opposing offensive linemen up at night along with quarterbacks, while coaches can’t put in the audibles they want.
“Playing at home is such an advantage not because you get to sleep in your own bed but because you can operate and communicate on offense,” Hasselbeck said. “The louder our fans can be particularly on third down, probably the more sacks we’ll have, the more interceptions we’ll have. That’s a great thing for our defense.”
Denver coach John Fox calls Nashville a tough place to play. He also noted Tennessee has designated this game as a “Code Blue,” which includes free T-shirts for all fans along with the stadium and a nearby pedestrian bridge lit in pale blue at night.
Denver quarterback Kyle Orton knows how loud Nashville can be after pulling out a 26-20 win here a year ago. The noise adds to the challenge for a visiting offense. The Titans ranked second in the NFL between 2007 and 2010 for most false start penalties by an opponent when playing at home with 60. Only Arizona had more with 61.
“Anytime you are playing in a loud place with a good defense, it’s an added pressure, and added responsibility on the offense so we have to go down and handle our business and not hurt ourselves with a bunch of pre-snap errors and penalties and mental errors,” Orton said. “So we are going to have to be locked in and come down and play one of our best games.’
Tennessee’s defense set the tone early against Baltimore, forcing the Ravens three-and-out on their first two series before ending the third with an interception. That stirred up the fans even more, and Finnegan said they will need them even more against Denver.