Spotlight of MNF exciting Titans
Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 5:47 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Titans finally can admit what’s been suspected for a long time.
The game they’ve looked forward to since the NFL schedule came out is up next: The Indianapolis Colts.
Sure, the Titans are the NFL’s only undefeated team at 6-0 with the best start in franchise history and a nine-game winning streak in the regular season going back to last December. They sit atop the AFC South and are coming off a 34-10 win against Kansas City that featured a franchise record 332 yards rushing.
But the Titans know their critics point to their opponents’ combined record of 12-26 and dismiss their start.
“A lot of people still don’t respect us and feel like we haven’t played top-notch talent in the league yet,” safety Chris Hope said Monday. “They’re still not sure about how good we are, and what better way to show them than on Monday Night Football against Peyton Manning and the Colts, one of the premier teams in the league.”
The Colts may be 3-3, but they have dominated the AFC South by winning the title every season with the lone exception being 2002 when the Titans won the division in its first year.
So while Tennessee has won two of the last three games in this series, Indianapolis has remained atop the AFC South.
“It’s an exciting game,” center Kevin Mawae said. “This is going to be a big one for us, a divisional rival that’s been the earmark for our division for a number of years now. It’s a chance for us to take a step forward and take over the division.”
The Titans have said all the right things over the first seven weeks about paying attention to the team up next on the schedule, respecting how dangerous each team is.
They even made Kansas City sound dangerous before LenDale White ran for 149 yards and three touchdowns with Chris Johnson adding 168 yards and a TD of his own.
Even Mawae said he probably would’ve kidded himself if he said the Titans would be 6-0 at this point with a schedule that featured Jacksonville and Minnesota early — both popular Super Bowl picks in the offseason.
“The thing about this team is nobody listens to the outsiders. Jeff’s done a great job of making us stay focused and keep things in-house, that kind of stuff. We have very little distractions outside of the first week of the season,” Mawae said in referring to the drama surrounding Vince Young after their opener.
“We’ve won on special teams, won on defense. Offense came up big (Sunday). We’re finding ways to win, and I don’t think anybody would’ve expected us to be 6-0 right now. We are, and we’re trying to handle it in stride.”
It helps that coach Jeff Fisher isn’t letting mistakes slide by even though it’s getting tougher with each game. His defense has allowed only 66 points and missed its first shutout since December 2000 after giving up 10 points in the final 4:56 to Kansas City. Receivers caught only two passes but spent most of their time blocking.
Fisher ticked off limiting penalties Monday as one of the areas to improve after seeing three of eight against the Chiefs that should not have happened. That included cornerback Nick Harper spiking the ball after missing an interception, Johnson’s bongo-playing after his 66-yard TD run and a holding on special teams.
The celebration penalty hurt the defense because the Chiefs had to drive only 54 yards for their lone touchdown. Fisher said Johnson realizes that now and that he must have his fun without penalizing the team.
Asked what would happen if Johnson draws another celebration penalty, Fisher was short.
“I’ll cut him,” the coach joked.
It’s easy to laugh with this kind of start.
Notes: Fisher said defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin), defensive tackle Tony Brown (ankle) and receivers Justin Gage (knee) and Justin McCareins (hamstring) will have a chance to practice this week. Vanden Bosch played three snaps against Kansas City before tweaking his injury and spent the rest of the game on the bench.