|Titans start off like none before |
|Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 1:34 pm |
|NASHVILLE — It’s been a ‘September to Remember’ for the Tennessee Titans. |
The Titans improved to 4-0 for the first time in franchise history and completed a perfect month to open the NFL season with a 30-17 victory over Minnesota Sunday afternoon at LP Field.
The trademark of this year’s Tennessee team — a stingy and opportunistic defense — forced four turnovers and recorded four quarterback sacks to headline the Titans’ latest victory that left them one of just two teams with 4-0 records after Sunday.
Tennessee — which won its seventh straight regular season game dating back to last year — converted three of those Viking takeaways into 21 points, needing just 50 yards of total offense after those turnovers to score three touchdowns.
Rookie running back Chris Johnson scored two TDs, LenDale White ran for a touchdown for the fourth straight game, and Rob Bironas kicked three field goals for the Titans.
Asked what being 4-0 for the first time in the 49-year history of the franchise (the last 10 in Tennessee), Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher understated the obvious.
“It means what it is, that we’ve respected and prepared for each of our first four opponents, played well and the guys are having fun,” Fisher said. “I really didn’t know that the franchise had never been 4-0 until this past week.”
Defensive back Nick Harper, who helped lock up the victory with an interception of Gus Frerotte deep in Minnesota territory that led to Johnson’s second TD with under four minutes left, is sure Tennessee can play even better.
“We don’t feel like we’re there yet. We feel like we haven’t played a complete game yet,” Harper claimed.
“We just feel like we’re struggling. Even though we’re struggling, we’re struggling in the right direction.”
The measly 17 points scored by the Vikings — who held a 333-275 advantage in total yardage — still represented a season-high against the Titans.
Tennessee entered the contest having give up a NFL-low 29 points in its first three games.
However, two turnovers by Minnesota running back stalwart Adrian Peterson in the first half led immediately to points, and Harper’s pick returned to the Viking six set up the clincher.
Peterson, last year’s Rookie of the Year, fumbled at his own 38 after catching a short pass and being hit by Titan linebacker David Thornton with Stephen Tulloch recovering midway through the first quarter. Johnson followed nine plays later with his first TD. Peterson then coughed up possession a second time deeper in Minnesota territory, fumbling after being hit by Kyle Vanden Bosch with Tony Brown recovering at the Minnesota 11.
Five plays later, White bulled his way over from the one.
On both touchdowns, Tennessee won sideline challenges — once after White originally was ruled to have fumbled before going down at the one and the second time after Justin Gage was given forward progress and a first down at the one after a fourth-down pass reception.
Albert Haynesworth had two of the Titans’ four sacks of Frerotte, who was knocked from the game briefly late after being hit directly on a pass attempt by Vanden Bosch, then accused the Tennessee All-Pro end of delivering a low blow.
“To just spear somebody like that is pretty ridiculous,” Frerotte told one writer.
Vanden Bosch reportedly responded: “I did not hit him below the knees. I hit him in the thigh and that’s where the rule book tells me to hit the quarterback.”
Tavararis Jackson — Minnesota’s starting QB the first two games of the season — replaced Frerotte and was sacked twice on three passing attempts.
Peterson, who had run for 340 yards over the first three weeks and was second in the league in that category coming in, finished with 80 yards on 18 carries. He had a 28-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to get the Vikings on the scoreboard, then ran three yards to paydirt with six minutes left to draw Minnesota within 23-17.
Unlike his counterparts, Titan quarterback Kerry Collins was not sacked and did not throw an interception while completing passes to six different receivers for 199 yards.
Tennessee will put its unbeaten mark on the line next week at Baltimore in the first of two October road games. The Ravens are 2-0 going into tonight’s game at Pittsburgh.
The Titans’ next home game will be a Monday night affair against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 27.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.