Titans not counting out rest of the ‘Pack’
Posted: Friday, October 31, 2008 5:36 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Titans aren’t ready to relax even as the NFL’s last unbeaten team, with a league-best 10-game winning streak in the regular season spanning back to 2007.
Not when they have another game and another opportunity to silence their doubters.
“No one expected us to be in this place, and now the talk is we haven’t played anyone,” Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “That’s cool. The experts had all offseason to decide who the top teams were in the NFL, and they had us somewhere like 20 or something … I think we’re playing well right now. We’re only going to get better.”
The challenge increases Sunday with the Green Bay Packers (4-3) coming off a bye visiting a 7-0 Tennessee team that grabbed control of the AFC South by beating the Indianapolis Colts 31-21 six days ago.
Green Bay used the time off to heal up and could have cornerback Al Harris (spleen) and safety Atari Bigby (hamstring back). Aaron Rodgers’ sprained right shoulder is feeling much better, and receiver Greg Jennings, who leads the NFC with 685 yards receiving, couldn’t care less about the Titans’ supposed weaknesses.
“People can talk about how they haven’t played opponents with winning records and whatever, but they’re getting the job done. And we have to go in there and make sure they don’t get the job done against us,” Jennings said.
The Packers survived a three-game skid and went into their bye having won two straight, including a 34-10 win over Indianapolis themselves on Oct. 19. They are tied with Chicago atop the NFC North, but this is the first of three road games over the next four weeks.
These teams haven’t met since 2004, with Green Bay’s only previous trip to Tennessee coming in 2001. They have wrapped up the preseason in each of the past seven years. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said he always has admired Jeff Fisher’s ability to have physical and fundamentally sound teams throughout his tenure, something he believes in as well.
“Year in and year out, the ability to run the football and stop the run, the Tennessee Titans have shown that ability and you know when you play those guys, it’s going to be a fist fight,” McCarthy said.
Green Bay and Tennessee also have dealt with quarterback controversies this year, with Brett Favre’s retirement, unretirement and eventual trade before the season for the Packers. Fisher used Vince Young’s sprained knee in the opener as an excuse to turn the offense over to veteran Kerry Collins, who has responded by going 6-0 as a starter.
McCarthy didn’t want to rehash the saga, saying it won’t help his Packers beat Tennessee.
“Frankly, just about that soap opera, I’m off that show,” McCarthy said.
Fisher stays busy reminding his Titans they can play better even as they have scored 30 or more points in four of the past five games and still have the NFL’s best scoring defense, giving up 12.4 points per game.
“And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not about what people think or say,” Fisher said. “We’re just trying to win the next ballgame.”
Big-play defense will be on display, with Green Bay leading the NFL with 13 interceptions, including five returned for touchdowns. The Titans are tied for second with 12 interceptions themselves, with one taken back 99 yards for a TD. Each team has two of the defensive backs tied atop the NFL with four interceptions apiece.
Bigby’s return for Green Bay will help a defense giving up an average of 141.9 yards rushing against a Tennessee team featuring the AFC’s leading rusher in rookie Chris Johnson with his 626 yards rushing, and LenDale White, the NFL’s top scorer with 10 TDs rushing.
“Everybody knows that they can feed off my hits,” Bigby said. “I’m bringing excitement to the game, and I hope my teammates will feed off it. But at the end of the day, we’re just going out there looking for a win.”
The Titans hope to have defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch back to help chase Rodgers, who has thrown for six TDs with only one interception over his past three games despite the injured shoulder. Bulluck said Rodgers can move around, giving himself time to find Jennings or Donald Driver downfield.
Opportunities for sacks? Well, Bulluck had hoped not to discuss that.
“But yeah, he sits around. He can only hold the ball for so long, and hopefully our pass rush will get to him. Hopefully, we’ll get Kyle back and get a little more heat from the outside,” Bulluck said.
“It’s going to be a great game. It might be one of the best in the league this week.”