Titan DT licks lips at playoff prospects
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Titans now stand a win away from the playoffs, somewhere they haven’t been since 2003. Only seven players are left from the team that lost to New England in an AFC divisional playoff.
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was one of those players.
Asked after the Titans’ 10-6 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday if he could taste the playoffs yet, he said he didn’t know.
Then he smacked his lips.
“I’m missing that taste. It’s been a while. I’m just waiting for that to get back there. After next week, I’ll let you know what it tastes like. It’s been a long time. Man, my first year in the league I thought it was easy to get into the playoffs, went to the AFC championship,” he said.
“I’m like, ‘We’ll be there next year.’ We got to the second round. I’m like, ‘This is easy.’”
Then came injuries and salary cap-forced slashing and rebuilding. The Titans went 4-12 in 2004, 5-11 in 2005 and 8-8 in 2006.
They found themselves counted out after an overtime loss to San Diego on Dec. 9 — their fourth loss in five games. But now they have won three of four, and coach Jeff Fisher said Monday he was excited for his hard-working players.
“They stayed focused and believed they could get back in it, so I’m excited for them. They’re deserving of an opportunity. They’re not there yet by any means. Indy’s a good football team. We’re going to have to find a way to win,” Fisher said.
“We told them if you just stay focused and work at it, good things will happen. They happened.”
The Titans (9-6) must win or tie combined with a Cleveland loss to San Francisco to clinch that final AFC wild-card spot. That would put them in a wild-card game against either Pittsburgh or San Diego.
Fisher is trying to keep things very simple.
“There’s one scenario this week, and it’s try to find a way to score one more point than they do,” he said.
SACK LEADER? Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch is a half a sack off his career-best of 121/2 sacks in 2005. The Pro Bowler goes into the final game two sacks behind Houston’s Mario Williams in the AFC for most sacks.
He is tied for eighth in the NFL, 21/2 sacks behind Seattle’s Patrick Kerney.
But Vanden Bosch took time after Sunday’s 10-6 win over the New York Jets to compliment his teammates. He had three sacks, while Tony Brown, Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy each had a sack.
“It really feels good to get sacks, but it feels almost as good to me to see Tony Brown get one, to see Travis and Antwan get sacks. I know they work real hard at it,” Vanden Bosch said.
Just don’t expect a fire roll sack celebration like Brown’s. Vanden Bosch said he isn’t really sure what happens in the moments immediately after he gets a sack.
“I kind of black out. I don’t really know what happens,” he said.
That didn’t stop him from critiquing Brown’s dancing.
“He can be a lot prettier with his post-sack celebration,” Vanden Bosch said.
DON’T JUMP: In hindsight, Tony Brown jumping on a teammate to try and block a field goal looks like a good move. The Jets chose to accept the penalty for leverage, took a field goal off the board that turned a 9-7 lead into a 7-6 deficit. Three plays later, Keith Bulluck picked off a pass in the end zone.
Fisher said Brown’s response later was he was just trying to win. Fisher had a message for the lineman.
“Tony, trying to win is doing what you’re told,” Fisher said.
EXTRA CHANCES: Titans kicker Rob Bironas has dropped to fourth in scoring among the NFL’s kickers with 123 points. But he has been at somewhat of a disadvantage this season.
He has connected on all 27 extra point attempts this season, which is the fewest attempted among the league’s top 12 scoring kickers.
Bironas had only four points in Sunday’s 10-6 win, but they wound up as the winning margin.
He had the extra point on Chris Brown’s touchdown run in the second quarter, and he added a 46-yard field goal in the third.
FINALLY, ON DEFENSE: The Tennessee Titans picked up cornerback Kelly Herndon in June when the Seattle Seahawks let the veteran go. He had spent three seasons in Denver and two in Seattle, playing in a total of 73 regular season games with 49 starts. He had a Super Bowl record with a 76-yard interception return against Pittsburgh.
He played for the Titans on special teams against Indianapolis on Sept. 16 and at New Orleans on Sept. 24. Then nothing until Sunday. Herndon was deactivated for 10 of the last 11 games, dressed at Denver on Nov. 19 but did not play.
When Nick Harper reported a groin problem minutes before the Titans had to turn in their list of inactives, that forced the decision to dress Herndon. He wound up playing when Reynaldo Hill had a concussion. He finished with two tackles.
CRYSTAL BALL: Titans coach Jeff Fisher has talked about the crystal ball he used to predict the scenarios for a playoff berth last year and how he would bring it out again. He said Monday the ball is back in a box and that he doesn’t need to pull it out for a few more days.
Don’t try to take a peek.
“I’ll have extra security outside my office,” he said.
QUOTABLE: “There’s tape from yesterday. There’s about three, four series from yesterday. That’s all you have,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher on how much tape there is of Indianapolis backup quarterback Jim Sorgi, who could play at least a half Sunday night.