Titans like Hasselbeck success rate vs. Saints

Titans like Hasselbeck success rate vs. Saints

Posted: Friday, December 9, 2011 7:01 pm

By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
The last time the Saints lined up against Matt Hasselbeck, the veteran quarterback ended their season.
The stakes won’t be quite as high on Sunday, when the surging New Orleans Saints (9-3) visit Hasselbeck’s new team in Tennessee (7-5), but it will be a meaningful game nonetheless.
One season after Hasselbeck led Seattle to a playoff berth (albeit with a 7-9 record) and a first-round playoff upset of New Orleans, he has the Titans in contention for a wild card playoff berth in the AFC.
If Hasselbeck can torment Gregg Williams’ heavy-pressure defense the way he did — twice — last season, the Saints will be hard-pressed to increase their winning streak beyond four games.
“He’s a quick decision maker and I think a good leader and certainly a guy that you have to recognize can beat you with his arm,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “There are some valid points there of concern where you recognize he’s a veteran player who has won football games.”
During a 2010 regular season game in New Orleans, Hasselbeck completed 72.7 percent of his passes for 366 yards and a TD, but fumbles and drives that ended in field goals prevented the Seahawks from keeping up with New Orleans that day.
In a rematch in the wild card round of the playoffs, the Saints had to travel to Seattle, where Hasselbeck, whose ability to throw on the run complicates matters for aggressive, blitzing defenses, passed for 272 yards and four TDs to send the Saints packing.
“He’s a guy that is experienced and understands the pressure packages of defenses,” Payton said. “It’s going to be hard, and it typically is hard to fool a veteran quarterback like that where he just gets hit and doesn’t realize he’s unprotected. He has an ability to get the ball out. Even in the game at home last year that we won, he had a tempo and a rhythm.”
The Titans, who have won three of their last four, likely will need another victory to keep pace in the AFC wild card race. Four other teams in the conference (New York, Cincinnati, Denver and Oakland) came into this weekend with 7-5 records. While either Denver or Oakland will likely win the AFC West, the rest of the teams with that record might all by vying for the final wild card spot.
Fortunately for Tennessee, star running back Chris Johnson has rounded into form.
Johnson joined the team late in camp after a contract holdout which ended in September, when he agreed to a four-year extension worth up to $53 million. He then got off to a slow and heavily scrutinized start, but that’s history.
He gashed Tampa Bay for 190 yards rushing two weeks ago, then rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns (including a 48-yard score) against Buffalo last weekend.
“The first four or five (games) weren’t so good and that’s what everyone was focusing on. They were expecting so much from him after the contract holdout,” first-year Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “He’s had an opportunity three of the last four games of getting over 20 carries a game. He’s the kind of back if he gets those types of carries, he can do some big things and have some big runs.”
Munchak, a former NFL offensive lineman, also noted that Tennessee has been blocking better lately and should only be helped by playing at home.
Published in The Messenger 12.9.11By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
The last time the Saints lined up against Matt Hasselbeck, the veteran quarterback ended their season.
The stakes won’t be quite as high on Sunday, when the surging New Orleans Saints (9-3) visit Hasselbeck’s new team in Tennessee (7-5), but it will be a meaningful game nonetheless.
One season after Hasselbeck led Seattle to a playoff berth (albeit with a 7-9 record) and a first-round playoff upset of New Orleans, he has the Titans in contention for a wild card playoff berth in the AFC.
If Hasselbeck can torment Gregg Williams’ heavy-pressure defense the way he did — twice — last season, the Saints will be hard-pressed to increase their winning streak beyond four games.
“He’s a quick decision maker and I think a good leader and certainly a guy that you have to recognize can beat you with his arm,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “There are some valid points there of concern where you recognize he’s a veteran player who has won football games.”
During a 2010 regular season game in New Orleans, Hasselbeck completed 72.7 percent of his passes for 366 yards and a TD, but fumbles and drives that ended in field goals prevented the Seahawks from keeping up with New Orleans that day.
In a rematch in the wild card round of the playoffs, the Saints had to travel to Seattle, where Hasselbeck, whose ability to throw on the run complicates matters for aggressive, blitzing defenses, passed for 272 yards and four TDs to send the Saints packing.
“He’s a guy that is experienced and understands the pressure packages of defenses,” Payton said. “It’s going to be hard, and it typically is hard to fool a veteran quarterback like that where he just gets hit and doesn’t realize he’s unprotected. He has an ability to get the ball out. Even in the game at home last year that we won, he had a tempo and a rhythm.”
The Titans, who have won three of their last four, likely will need another victory to keep pace in the AFC wild card race. Four other teams in the conference (New York, Cincinnati, Denver and Oakland) came into this weekend with 7-5 records. While either Denver or Oakland will likely win the AFC West, the rest of the teams with that record might all by vying for the final wild card spot.
Fortunately for Tennessee, star running back Chris Johnson has rounded into form.
Johnson joined the team late in camp after a contract holdout which ended in September, when he agreed to a four-year extension worth up to $53 million. He then got off to a slow and heavily scrutinized start, but that’s history.
He gashed Tampa Bay for 190 yards rushing two weeks ago, then rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns (including a 48-yard score) against Buffalo last weekend.
“The first four or five (games) weren’t so good and that’s what everyone was focusing on. They were expecting so much from him after the contract holdout,” first-year Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “He’s had an opportunity three of the last four games of getting over 20 carries a game. He’s the kind of back if he gets those types of carries, he can do some big things and have some big runs.”
Munchak, a former NFL offensive lineman, also noted that Tennessee has been blocking better lately and should only be helped by playing at home.
Published in The Messenger 12.9.11

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