Titans’ line a great safety blanket for Kerry
Posted: Friday, October 24, 2008 5:53 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have taken protecting the quarterback to a new level.
They have given up only two sacks through the first six games — none over the past four. Their two sacks allowed are the fewest in the NFL and puts them easily ahead of the club record 21 sacks allowed in 2002. Veteran quarterback Kerry Collins, sacked just once back on Sept. 14, appreciates the security provided by his offensive line and teammates.
“It definitely helps me. I’m obviously not going to scramble around and do a lot of different things,” Collins said Thursday.
“It makes their job tougher, and they’ve risen to the challenge. Obviously it makes my job a lot easier. I know I’m going to get time, and they give me that time and it allows me to get to the second or third read. I think they’re playing at a high level. They’re as good an offensive line as I’ve been around.”
That offensive line features left tackle Michael Roos and right tackle David Stewart, a pair signed to long-term deals during the offseason. Veteran center Kevin Mawae is the anchor in the middle with Eugene Amano at left guard and Jake Scott, signed as a free agent away from Indianapolis, at right guard after replacing the retired Benji Olson.
“We knew coming in the year we were going to have a good front,” Mawae said. “We knew teams would challenge us with eight- and nine-man fronts. They’ve challenged us on blitz pickups. … Everybody’s involved.”
That includes the tight ends in veteran Alge Crumpler and Bo Scaife, fullback Ahmard Hall and the running backs, even rookie Chris Johnson. The rookie with the blazing speed impressed watchers first with his ability to pick up, and block, pass rushers and protect the quarterback.
Hall said the backs take their jobs seriously as the quarterback’s last hope if a defender slips past.
Jacksonville sacked Vince Young in the opener before he hurt his left knee. Cincinnati got to Kerry Collins once in the second game.
The NFL record for fewest sacks allowed in a season is seven by the 1988 Miami Dolphins, and the then-Houston Oilers gave up 17 in 1978 before the league started counting sacks as a statistic in 1982.
Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said the Titans have been helped by not trailing late and having to the ball throw away.
A strong run game helps as well. The Titans are averaging 154.5 yards per game — fourth-best in the NFL — and coming off a franchise-record 332 yards in last week’s 34-10 win at Kansas City.
“Teams are having to play the run and when you do throw on third down, you can throw, get rid of the football. … It’s a combination of their line playing so well,” Dungy said. “I’ve been impressed with how they’re playing as a unit, the fact that they’re running it so well and the fact that they haven’t been in many ‘must throw’ situations.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said they don’t expect to go the rest of the season without giving up sacks, a streak that could end Monday night when Indianapolis (3-3) visits.
“Certainly that’s going to be a huge challenge for us this Monday night with the great job (the Colts) do pressuring the passer,” Fisher said.
Notes: Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch missed a second straight practice with his groin injury. Fisher said Vanden Bosch is working hard inside and they will try to practice before the week ends. “If Kyles able to play, he’ll be fine,” Fisher said. Receiver Justin McCareins (hamstring) and linebacker Colin Allred (groin) did not practice. But defensive tackle Tony Brown (ankle) and receiver Justin Gage (right knee) both practiced.