Titans in must-wins from this point on
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Titans need to do a little streaking to keep their hopes of their first playoff berth since 2003 alive.
They have matched the win total from last season by beating the Chiefs 26-17 on a frigid day in Kansas City on Sunday. To earn the AFC wild-card spot missed in 2006, the Titans must down the New York Jets (3-11), then visit Indianapolis where the Colts may rest up in the regular season finale.
Coach Jeff Fisher is keeping the math simple for his Titans (8-6).
“We just have to win,” he said Monday. “There’s scenarios that if we’re fortunate to win this game this week, regardless of what happens this week, we’re still alive next week. Really, we take care of our own business, then we have a good chance.”
A Tennessee loss helps Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Cleveland clinch the AFC’s final playoff spots.
Fisher doesn’t have to worry about scoreboard watching. Pittsburgh (9-5) visits St. Louis on Thursday night, while Cleveland (9-5) plays at Cincinnati at noon Sunday. The Titans don’t kick off until 3:15 p.m.
If Cleveland loses to Cincinnati, then the Titans would have control of their postseason fate in their hands. If Cleveland wins, the Titans then need Pittsburgh to lose at Baltimore on Dec. 30.
And if Cleveland and Pittsburgh win out, then the Titans will be left outside even if they finish 10-6 — which would be the franchise’s best record since going 12-4 in 2003.
“We’re fighting for our lives right now,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said after the Chiefs’ game. “We’re just trying to stay in the mix and if we can just win one more and then another one after that, we should be in pretty good shape.”
Fisher is counting on last year’s experience to help. They won six straight and needed three teams to lose on the final day of the 2006 season. Each of those teams lost, but the Titans messed up with a 40-23 loss to New England on their own field to blow the playoff berth.
“We have to regroup. We have to spend time in the training room getting healthy. We have to refocus for a different type of opponent this week, and we have to win it,” Fisher said.
The Titans are banged-up after two physical games. Bulluck (knee), linebacker Ryan Fowler (right shoulder), center Kevin Mawae (calf) and defensive back Vincent Fuller (right shoulder) all had tests Monday.
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who has not practiced the past two weeks, may practice late this week as he returns from his right hamstring.
The team that had lost four of five now has won two of its last three games. They also took care of the ball against Kansas City — their first game without a turnover for the first time since Oct. 28 in a win against Oakland.
Sunday also marked the first time Vince Young had not been intercepted in a game since that Oct. 28 game — a six-game stretch and his fourth pick-free game this season. Young, with nine touchdown passes and 16 interceptions, said he was improving with teammates who understand ball control is key.
“That’s one thing that we talked about all week, where if we get into the nasty games, taking care of the ball is one of the biggest things. Whoever has the ball in their hands needs to take care of it and we did a pretty good job of that,” Young said.