At the beginning of this season, if someone would have told you the Tennessee Titans would be 10-0, you would have laughed then checked them out for a serious mental illness. As you laughed, they continued onward toward their prediction of how the Titans will miraculously spearhead their way through the AFC and emerge into the Super Bowl. This may be a rare scenario, but in an odd way, this was my reaction when a friend of mine suggested that the Titans would be the AFC breadwinner.
The only point where this prediction went wrong, is that it all would be led by highly touted quarterback Vince Young. As we all know, the Titans began on a roller coaster ride in the Vince Young theme park. First it was the pressure that was finding its way to Vince Young’s core. Then there was the alleged suicide debacle that consumed the entire organization. Next, the Jaguars pass rush took its toll on the quarterback and he then found himself on the injured reserve with a sprained medial collateral ligament.
Enter Kerry Collins. The former Penn State stud steps in at 36 years of age and performs at a very high level. Playing within himself and not taking too many chances, Collins propelled the Titans enough to gain the confidence of Jeff Fisher and secure a starting spot even once Vince Young returned from injury. In 9 starts this season, Kerry Collins has amassed only 8 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 59% completion rate, and a quarterback rating of 82.0. This may seem lackluster, but they are 10-0.
The key contributor to their 10-0 record is the rough and tough, impenetrable defense. Headlined by Albert Haynesworth and the run stopping power, the Titans have allowed just 951 yards on the ground. Jevon Kearse is a classic case of “another mans trash is another mans treasure”. Now a key piece of what this defense is accruing, it’s hard to believe the once injury plagued defensive end, was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Titan defense also has picked the opposing offense off an AFC high, 15 times.
On the offensive side of the football, the Titans have kept things simple. The passing game often breaking down and proving to be un-reliable at times, has them undefeated with just a 9:6 touchdown to interception ratio. The real offensive push has really come from the emergence of rookie running back, Chris Johnson. The former Eastern Carolina star has 787 yards rushing, 5 touchdowns, and is averaging almost 80 yards a game.
Lendale White is also used by Coach Fisher in a dual back set. This is why the Titans have been able to wear teams down. They are able to use a more speed driven back such as Chris Johnson to get by defensive lineman and at the same time insert Lendale White, who is a much bigger running back and is able to hit holes on shorter downs. Lendale White is currently tied with just two other running backs for most rushing touchdowns this season at 11.
So what lies ahead on the Titans quest toward perfection? Looking at the Forecast ahead…
The Titans host a rejuvenated Jets team this Sunday which looks to be a headlining game coming into this weekend’s contests. As the battle of the graybeards gets ready to take the field, its worth noting that the New York Jets are on a 4 game winning streak, getting the better of the Patriots in OT last week. If the Titans want to continue their rampage through the league schedule, they’ll have to contain Brett Favre and his offensive onslaught.
Looking even further ahead, two very notable games that could stand in the way of the Titans running the table is a December 21st matchup where they will host the stingy Pittsburgh Steelers. The very next week the Titans will make an interesting trip to Indianapolis for the season finale, which looks like a game that could be a must win for the Colts playoff hopes.
It may look like an unlikely feat for Jeff Fisher and Co., but as Herm Edwards once said “You play to win the game” and that’s just what they’ve done, played to win the game.