Fisher, Titans not believing in experts’ slo-mo theories
Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 2:25 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Count the Tennessee Titans among the teams who don’t believe momentum can be lost by taking a game off.
Jeff Fisher already had the AFC’s No. 1 seed locked up, so he rested some key Titans, pulled Kerry Collins after three plays and played every backup in a 23-0 loss to Indianapolis.
Tennessee sure didn’t look like it had the NFL’s best record at 13-3 in a brisk regular-season finale that lasted 2 hours, 33 minutes.
So no worries about losing that momentum?
The Titans essentially will go three weeks between meaningful snaps from their 31-14 win over Pittsburgh on Dec. 21 and their divisional playoff game Jan. 10.
“I’m clearly confident that we evidently played our best ball against Pittsburgh, and we’ve gotten better and better,” Fisher said Monday. “This one is an exception. We did, as I said, we did what we felt we needed to do to be ready for the first playoff game. And I felt from an injury standpoint and a rest standpoint, we were successful.”
The only key injury from the loss in Indy was backup linebacker Josh Stamer’s groin ailment, and tests were being performed Monday.
The Titans split their last six games of the regular season, but linebacker Keith Bulluck downplayed questions about whether they peaked too early.
He said they played great against Pittsburgh with home-field advantage on the line.
“That’s the most that can be at stake in one particular game,” Bulluck said. “I think we did a great job. We had to play this game because it was on our schedule.”
Fisher’s priority was avoiding further injuries with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (left knee) and end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) missing the last two games and center Kevin Mawae out with an elbow injury.
Some will keep resting as the playoffs approach.
Fisher is expecting his injured players back in practice by next week at the latest but isn’t saying which ones or when.
The Titans had the NFL’s best record, also at 13-3, in 2000 only to lose to Baltimore in the divisional playoff game.
The next time Fisher got a first-round bye and a home divisional game was the 2003 season, and his Titans beat Pittsburgh 34-31 in overtime to reach the AFC championship game.
Fisher said that experience helps players trust what the coaches ask them to do.
The Titans will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and may work in pads once or twice.
They also will focus on third-down efficiency, rushing offense and protecting the football.
However, Tennessee will not have to worry about who the quarterback is as Collins was protected well enough during his three plays against Indy to ensure that he would play.
Former starter and first round draft pick Vince Young came in and he finished the game as the quarterback.
They won’t learn if they are hosting Baltimore, San Diego or Indianapolis until Sunday afternoon.
“They understand we’re now in a once in a lifetime opportunity, or at least once in a rare opportunity, to have home-field throughout the playoffs,” Fisher said of his team. “The priorities should be coming to work, doing the right things at work and not being distracted by anything else.”
Toward that end, the Titans stockpiled playoff experience through their free-agent signings over the past three years including linebacker David Thornton, cornerback Nick Harper and right guard Jake Scott from Indianapolis, safety Chris Hope from Pittsburgh and quarterback Collins, who led the 2000 New York Giants to the NFC championship.
“That certainly helps as far as younger guys are concerned,” Fisher said. “I have really no concern about the maturity level of our younger players. They understand what’s important, and they’ll responsibly prepare for this.”
Punter Craig Hentrich and end Jevon Kearse are the only players around from Tennessee’s lone Super Bowl appearance from the 1999 season, but Bulluck and Haynesworth lost a Super Bowl trip to Oakland in January 2003.
Bulluck said he, Thornton and Collins talked Monday about this team’s opportunity. Collins led the Giants to the Super Bowl after his stint with the Carolina Panthers.
“We all know that this is it. I think the message will be definitely conveyed,” Bulluck said.