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Titans can move ball, but have a scoring problem

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Titans are doing a great job of holding onto the ball. Now, they have to find a way to get into the end zone.

Nobody holds onto the ball better than the Titans, who are averaging 33 minutes, 28 seconds of possession per game. But Tennessee is scoring an average of 15.7 points, a primary reason its mired in a three-game losing skid and stuck at the bottom of the AFC South standings

"We would sacrifice time of possession for points, without question," coach Jeff Fisher said Thursday.

The Titans (1-3) have held onto the ball so well, in part, because of Chris Brown, the second-year back who has been a solid replacement for Eddie George with 100-yard performances in his first three games.

But scoring points didn't figure to be a problem for a team that returned their starting offense nearly intact from 2003, when they had one of the best offensive performances in franchise history.

The Titans' 435 points last season was the most since 1970, good for a 27.18 average and fifth-best in the NFL. With Steve McNair the league's top-rated passer, the Titans led the league in passing yards per attempt.

Through the first four games of 2004, those stats are almost reversed.

The Titans are last in the NFL in passing average. They also are in the bottom third for total yards per game and passing yards per game.

McNair said he doesn't want to make excuses, but points out the Titans have had to mix and match packages because of injuries that hurt their consistency.

Top tight end Erron Kinney is out with a strained right calf, left guard Zach Piller was lost for the season in the opener, and two of Tennessee's top four receivers have played a combined two games.

"It's not good if you hold the ball so long and only get three points or don't get any," McNair said. "I think our goal right now is, regardless of how much time we hold the ball, we've got to get six points."

The mistakes hurting the offense's consistency have been tough to pin down. Rookie Jacob Bell, who replaced Piller at left guard, will start his fourth game Monday night at Green Bay.

Center Justin Hartwig missed practice last week with a sprained and bruised left ankle.

Right tackle Fred Miller said it's never just one person.

"Everyone takes their turn. You have five guys doing things at different times, then that's five bad plays right there. You just don't know in the NFL which play's going to be a big play and a touchdown for you," he said.

The first quarter has been the Titans' biggest problem. Traditionally, they open games strong and put a touchdown or two on the board to take control quickly.

This season, they have just one touchdown in the first quarter. They also have settled for four field goals after getting bogged down.

Pro Bowl receiver Derrick Mason thinks the Titans are close to clicking. He's confident they can reach the level set last season, when they became only the third franchise since 1970 to score 30 or more points in six straight games.

"This offense is due for an explosion, not just points-wise, but yardage-wise, also. We're going to try to get it going this weekend. If we can do it, it'll carry on for the rest of the season," he said.

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