Updated Dec 15, 2013 - 10:04 am
Behind Enemy Lines: Tennessee Titans
After a disheartening loss in Philadelphia, the Cardinals responded with a complete dismantling of the St. Louis Rams, earning a 30-10 win in Glendale.
Quarterback Carson Palmer had one of his best outings of the season, completing his first 11 passes and finishing 27-of-32 for 269 yards and a touchdown.
The win was the team's first over an NFC West opponent since Week 1 in 2012 when Arizona beat Seattle 20-16.
The defense led the Cardinals' charge, highlighted by an interception-returned-for-touchdown by linebacker Karlos Dansby. Safety Rashad Johnson also added a pick off Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens.
It wasn't all good news, however, as breakout rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu injured both his ACL and LCL in his left knee. The injury ends Mathieu's season, and a return date has yet to be determined.
Arizona stayed in the playoff hunt with the victory, though the road remains tough. The Cardinals trail San Francisco and Carolina for the wild card spots by one game with three to play. While the Cardinals hold a tiebreaker over Carolina, the 49ers would advance if the two teams finished with the same record at the end of the season.
The Cardinals can get another crucial win this weekend when they travel to Tennessee to face the 5-8 Titans. After a promising start to the season, the Titans lost starting quarterback Jack Locker for the season to a Lisfranc injury and backup Ryan Fitzpatrick has struggled in his place.
Tennessee is reeling having lost two straight, including a 51-28 blowout to the Denver Broncos Sunday, and is clinging to very faint AFC playoff hopes.
This week we'll check in on what's going on Behind Enemy Lines in Nashville leading up to the game.
Sunday, Dec 15
• Britt still upbeat, but time may be winding down (Tennessean.com)
How bright the future appeared for Kenny Britt the last time the Arizona Cardinals were in town, during his rookie season of 2009.
Trailing 17-13 late in the fourth quarter, the Titans drove 99 yards and won the game on the last play — a fourth down — when Britt rose above Cardinals defenders to grab a 10-yard touchdown pass from Vince Young.
• Tennessee Titans chief faces tough decision on Mike Munchak (Tennessean.com)
he most encouraging thing about the Titans' discouraging situation is that the man in charge — Tommy Smith, the new CEO and president — is taking notes.
For the first time in the last handful of years, this franchise is not on autopilot. Smith is paying attention. He is asking questions and getting answers.
It's about time.
• Titans need run rhythme with hot hand (ESPN.com)
Running back rhythm has been an issue for the Titans all season. Playing from behind has certainly been a factor, limiting carries at times.
But two games ago Chris Johnson started to get going and disappeared. And last week Shonn Greene seemed to be heating up late in the second quarter, but offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was unable to stick with him.
• On Munchak's Titans against winning teams (ESPN.com)
As bad as the Titans are, they will be expected to win at Jacksonville on Dec. 22 and to beat Houston Dec. 29. Those games are hardly a given -- the Titans have lost to those teams already. But wins against them to split season series won't say much about where the Titans stand.
A game against a good Arizona team that's in the mix for an NFC playoff berth is different. It's the last chance in Munchak's third season to get something that would at least qualify as a candidate for a signature win.
Friday, December 13
• Double Coverage: Cardinals at Titans (ESPN.com)
The Arizona Cardinals come to Nashville in a position not unlike those Titans from two years ago. Arizona's on the playoff fringe, playing well and looking for its ninth win this season.
ESPN.com Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and ESPN.com Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky discuss the two teams in advance of Sunday's game.
• Fitzpatrick has kept the offense running in a way Titans expected from Locker (NashvillePost.com)
The Tennessee Titans lost Jake Locker for the season yet kept one of the elements that supposedly set him apart from other quarterbacks - his ability to run.
In the eight games he's played because of Locker's injuries, Ryan Fitzpatrick has kept the offense moving with his feet when needed.
• Secondary market shows Titans' tickets not worth much in resale (NashvillePost.com)
Tennessee Titans ticket holders have started to pay the price for the team's struggles.
That's because what people are willing to pay on the secondary market to attend a game at LP Field is at a five-year low.
• Titans' Chris Johnson on pace for 'standard' 1,000 yards (The Tennessean)
"It is definitely the standard for running backs in the NFL. … Just to get 1,000 yards every year is a blessing," he said. "Coming in, you want to get way more than 1,000 yards."
• Titans rookie receiver Justin Hunter shows promise, room to grow (The Tennessean)
With every helping of praise they heap upon rookie wide receiver Justin Hunter, the Titans always seem to deliver disclaimers for dessert:
He can become a better route-runner. He can get stronger. He can become a more consistent pass-catcher.
• Kendall Wright adjusting to double-teams (ESPN.com)
Kendall Wright graduated into a receiver drawing double-teams in the past two weeks.
The Tennessee Titans top wide receiver said: "It might be a compliment, but I don't like it."
Thursday, December 12
• 'Amish Rifle' readies for old friend (The Tennesseean)
"Rhino, the Amish Rifle," Palmer said of Fitzpatrick. "I have a ton of respect for Ryan. He's played in a number of different places, he has been in a lot of crazy situations, a lot of sticky situations. He's the type of guy you want on your side. I love playing with him, love watching him play."
• Titans injury report (The Tennesseean)
Titans tight end Delanie Walker returned to the practice field on Wednesday and is expected to return to action on Sunday vs. the Cardinals. He missed last Sunday's game at Denver with a concussion.
• Bernard Pollard says NFL has admitted mistake on penalty (The Tennesseean)
Titans safety Bernard Pollard said the NFL told him it made a mistake: his hit on Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker last Sunday shouldn't have been flagged.
Three weeks before he could lose his job, Titans coach Mike Munchak ventured a bit into the sales pitch he will offer Tommy Smith for working a fourth year as Tennessee's head coach.
• Titans third-down success not translating (ESPN.com)
For all the deficiencies the Titans have shown this season, their third-down production on both sides of the ball has been nearly spectacular.
The Titans' offense is converting 43 percent of its chances, sixth best in the NFL. The Titans' defense is holding opponents to 33.3 percent, fourth best in the NFL.
• Candid Jurrell Casey hopes for inside push (ESPN.com)
"If (Carson Palmer) is sitting back there, he's comfortable with guys going around his edges," Casey said. "He's a step-up type quarterback. If he's got room inside to step up, then he's very comfortable. So we've got to make sure we get pressure up the middle to make sure we get him off rhythm."
Wednesday, December 11
• Smith: Titans need to use CJ better (ESPN.com)
Munchak's coached Johnson for 45 games. If he hasn't figured out how to use him yet, I am not sure I can find a reason to expect he will figure out a way.
• Tommy Smith sounds torn on Munchak (ESPN.com)
New Titans president and CEO Tommy Smith has been quiet as the team's season has gone in the tank.
He told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean on Tuesday that a decision on coach Mike Munchak after the season will be difficult.
• New Titans CEO Tommy Smith faces agonizing decision over Mike Munchak (The Tennessean)
"It's awful," Smith said in a phone interview on Tuesday. "I have known Mike for 30 years, and it's hard to find someone of higher character, with greater integrity than Mike Munchak. He is a very intelligent guy and a good man. We would like things to work out for Mike in that capacity."
• Titans' 2014 outlook may not include Munchak, Johnson (Fox Sports Tennessee)
As such, there is speculation that Mike Munchak might be coaching the final three games of a three-year tenure, and Chris Johnson's six-year run with Tennessee may be coming to an end.
Tuesday, December 10
Salary won't be what saves Mike Munchak (ESPN.com)
If Mike Munchak is the Titans' head coach in 2014, it's not going to be because the franchise was unwilling to swallow his salary and pay him not to coach.
Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak not worried about job security (Tennessean.com)
Mike Munchak insists he isn't worried about his job security.
The coach feels the Titans are headed in the right direction, and he hopes winning the last three games will be enough to make his bosses agree.
Tennessee Titans to consider all options with Jake Locker's future (Tennessean.com)
The Titans believe in quarterback Jake Locker but will consider all options at the position going forward, coach Mike Munchak said on Monday.
Locker is on injured reserve after suffering a Lisfranc injury on Nov. 10. He had surgery and is facing as much as six months of rehab.
Mike Munchak wants the Tennessee Titans to win their final three games to finish an improved 8-8 season.
Monday, December 9
If Munchak is out, it shouldn't be today (ESPN.com)
Unhappy Titans fans saw the Texans fire their coach with three games left in the season.
My Twitter timeline suggests many are reaching new levels of disgust. Some Titans fans are hoping there is news this morning on Mike Munchak.
Titans frustrated with calls from 'higher power' (ESPN.com)
Bernard Pollard is hardly afraid to pop off. The Tennessee Titans strong safety is one of the NFL's most outspoken players. And he's got no issue raising the volume.
Sunday, after the Titans fell to 5-8 with a 51-28 loss to the Denver Broncos, he was reserved and resigned.
Jay Cutler could be targeted by Tennessee Titans (NFL.com)
The winds of change are swirling in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Titans are not expected to pick up the fifth-year option on quarterback Jake Locker for 2015, which would pay him $13 million, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Media columnist Michael Silver said on NFL Network's "NFL GameDay Morning."
Jim Wyatt's report card:Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos (Tennessean.com)
My grades for the Titans after their 51-28 loss to the Broncos here on Sunday.
Titans vs Broncos: Monday Morning Thoughts Following 51-28 Loss (TitanSized.com)
Think back to one month ago. That was Week 10. A 4-4 Tennessee Titans team hosted a 0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars team who likely had the roughest eight-game stretch in NFL history. The Titans were seen as a contender for the AFC's sixth and final playoff berth. Fans were hopeful that this team could take advantage of an Indianapolis Colts team who had just lost Reggie Wayne.
- Steve Keim, Cardinals GM - Friday April 18Will the Cardinals draft a quarterback?
- John McClain, NFL insider - Thursday April 17Who will the Texans draft?
- Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com writer - Tuesday April 15NFL.com writer Daniel Jeremiah talks about the NFL draft.
- Kurt Warner, NFL Network analyst - Tuesday April 15Which quarterback will be taken first in the NFL Draft?
- Michael Bidwill, Cardinals' president - Wednesday April 9Cardinals president Michael Bidwill discuses the getting the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl.