Ex-Colts now set to propel Titans
Posted: Monday, October 27, 2008 6:45 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee linebacker David Thornton won’t hide it.
He really enjoys playing against the Indianapolis Colts, the team that chose not to keep him around when he hit free agency. And he’s been making them pay twice a year playing with the Titans.
“Whenever it’s your former team, there’s a little extra energy there. Maybe you play with a little more passion. I think the setting of a Monday night stage makes the game even bigger,” Thornton said.
The stakes are even higher tonight between these AFC South rivals. A win extends the best start in Titans history to 7-0 and helps Tennessee take a four-game lead in the loss column over Indianapolis (3-3), the team that has won five straight division titles.
“They’ve been the kings of the AFC South,” Thornton said. “At the same time, this is a new season. We have a lot of things going well for us, and we want to build on that. This division game Monday night can definitely do some things for both teams. They need it. We need it just as much.”
The banged-up Colts certainly could use the three players that started careers in Indianapolis but currently playing in Tennessee. Thornton was the first to sign with the Titans in 2006. Cornerback Nick Harper won his Super Bowl ring with the Colts, then joined the Titans in 2007. Tennessee brought in Jake Scott to play right guard once Benji Olson retired.
“We’ve definitely gotten the right Colts,” Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
The Colts sure have noticed.
“You hate to lose good players, you really do,” two-time MVP Peyton Manning said. “Jake Scott seems to be playing well for them. A lot of our good players we’ve lost through the years have gone to different places. But a number of them have gone to the Titans.”
Indianapolis really could have used Scott this season with all the injuries on its offensive line. Manning was protected by a pair of rookie guards the past few weeks, including in last week’s 34-14 loss at Green Bay in which he had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Manning goes into this game with only one more touchdown pass (eight) than interceptions (seven).
Colts coach Tony Dungy said he was sad to see guys go. But he has enjoyed watching how well they play elsewhere.
“David and Nick are playing as well as they ever played for us. Watching these first six games has been a treat. So I hope they don’t play better against us then they’ve been playing or they’re going to have outstanding games,” Dungy said.
Indianapolis doesn’t have time to think of the past, not when the Colts are trying to fix their run defense without Bob Sanders, last season’s Defensive Player of the Year. Mistakes have led to 23 combined penalties over the past two games, and the rushing offense currently is last in the NFL averaging 70 yards a game, with Joseph Addai likely to miss a second straight game.
“We haven’t played the type of game that we need to play to be where we want to go. And I think everybody knows we can do that. But we haven’t done it yet this year,” Dungy said.
Thornton and Harper now are part of a Tennessee defense that is allowing a league-fewest 11 points per game and only one touchdown passing this season. Harper has helped seal two victories with late interceptions.
Scott is a key piece on an offensive line that has allowed only two sacks this season and helped the Titans set a franchise record with 332 yards rushing in last week’s 34-10 win at Kansas City.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who can join Tom Landry and Don Shula as the only coaches to start 7-0 for the first time in their 15th season or later with a win, said they took advantage of having some salary cap space in landing three starters.
“We knew them very well having played against them twice a year. They’ve been tremendous as far as production and the attitude in the locker room and their professional approach to this game. We’re very fortunate to have them,” Fisher said.
But both Harper and Scott agree this game is more about a chance at grabbing a strong hold on the AFC South than personal feelings against their old team. Harper has been receiving text messages from his friends still with the Colts over the past few days and calls it all talk.
“Come Monday, it will be put to the test,” Harper said.