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Titans trying to learn to finish games

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NASHVILLE — Close but no cigar.

The Tennessee Titans continue to talk about a familiar refrain through the early portion of the 2015 season – their inability to close games. Two games in a row, the Titans have blown double-digit leads and wound up losing by two points to the Colts and one point last week to the Bills.

What that adds up to is a 1-3 mark for a team that feels it should be better than having the same record it did a year ago when it went an abysmal 2-14.

“You take two plays from each game, and we’d be sitting here 3-1 at least,” said linebacker Brian Orakpo, one of the Titans’ free-agent acquisitions this offseason. “This is a young team, and we’re still learning how to finish these close games. And once we overcome that – we’re this close to getting over the hump. We’re striving each and every day learning from our mistakes. We just have to finish in those big-time situations.”

It may be a matter that the Titans have to see themselves have success in order to get over that proverbial hump. That is Orakpo’s belief.

“Honestly, in my opinion, to get over this hump, I feel like we have to win this game and we have to win a game to show and realize what we’re capable of doing, then the victories will come. It just takes one game to really get on a roll,” he said.

Other Titans’ players don’t disagree with his assessment either.

“Belief comes and the morale when you start winning some games. Obviously, you feel a lot better about the team this year. You’re playing well in a lot of moments and it’s just those small details that are killing us, but in our business close losses really don’t add up to much. You’ve got to string it together and be able to come out on top,” cornerback Jason McCourty said.

Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt has been preaching the same message to his players, too.

“I think if you go through and look at this league, there is a normal process that teams go through with that, especially when you have a lot of change like we’ve had here,” Whisenhunt said. “The only way you can get through it is to get a win, make a play in those situations, and try to learn from that. We’re close, like we keep continuing to say. But I said the same thing, it doesn’t mean anything until we get a win, until we get rolling, that’s what we have to do.”

SERIES HISTORY: 34th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 18-15. The Titans and Dolphins have not faced each other since 2012 when the Titans won at Miami, 37-3. The game marked the return of Jake Locker from a shoulder injury, and even though he was just 9 of 21, he had two touchdown passes and his defense stepped up in a big way that day.

GAME PLAN

–Honestly, the Titans don’t really know what to expect from the Dolphins on Sunday, as Miami will be under the guidance of interim head coach Dan Campbell, who will be making his head coaching debut this week. The Dolphins will likely abandon the two-gap attack for the defensive line in favor of a one-gap approach, and probably will have an offensive attack that will be centered around Lamar Miller and the running game.

For the Titans, they simply need to execute consistently and protect a lead, something they have not been able to do. The Titans need more consistency running the football and need some big plays in the passing game, something that was absent against the Bills. The Titans have to avoid giving up big plays on defense, especially on third-and-long.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Titans RG Chance Warmack vs. Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh.

Suh has not lived up to the big-money contract he got in the offseason to leave Detroit. Warmack is coming off a sprained MCL in his right knee and will have to be up to the test, as the Dolphins may revamp their defensive line to get Suh in more pass-rush situations.

–Titans CB Jason McCourty vs. Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry.

Landry is the big playmaker in the passing game for the Dolphins, and McCourty, just coming off a groin injury, will get a big test from the Miami receiver when he lines up opposite him on Sunday.


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