Friday, October 29, 2010

Remember these Titans

Robalini's Note: The Titans were my preseason pick for Super Bowl champion. Let's see if I've nailed the NFL winner two seasons in a row...

Remember these Titans
Monday, 10.25.10
Scott Garbarini, Sports Network

They're physical, nasty and compete right to the whistle, some have even said beyond so. Their methods -- running the football and playing tough, sound defense -- are unconventional in today's wide-open, free-wheeling NFL.

And they're flying completely under the radar.

They're the Tennessee Titans, the one team seemingly no one is talking about when the subject of the league's top contenders is brought up.

The current AFC South front-runners may have finally drawn themselves a little attention, however, with Sunday's convincing performance against a pretty solid Philadelphia Eagles team. The 37-19 victory showed the Titans have a couple more elements to their well-rounded game, ones we may not have realized existed in our casual observations.

Tennessee displayed both resiliency and versatility in vanquishing the surging Eagles, who had entered the Music City off a two-game win streak and a growing confidence. After spotting their opponent a 19-10 lead with under 13 1/2 minutes to go, the Titans ripped off a team-record 27 unanswered fourth- quarter points to deliver a stunning comeback against a foe that had won 22 consecutive times when leading at halftime.

While that belated barrage of points was impressive enough, it was how the Titans did it that really raised more than a few eyebrows. With starting quarterback Vince Young on the sidelines due to a sprained knee and star running back Chris Johnson held to a mortal 66 yards on 28 carries, Tennessee dipped into the savvy experience of wily old vet Kerry Collins and the playmaking skills of emerging young wide receiver Kenny Britt to pull off maybe the most significant -- and clearly the most improbable -- of its five wins this season.

Britt abused the Philadelphia secondary for a startling 225 yards and three touchdowns on seven catches, despite not even taking the field until midway through the second quarter as punishment for his involvement in an altercation at a Nashville nightspot a few days earlier. His second score, an 80-yard deep strike from Collins early in the fourth quarter, ignited the Titans' furious rally and drew some very high praise from his battle-tested quarterback, who proved there's indeed a little juice left in his 37-year-old arm with a 276- yard effort off the bench.

"There is not much better, that I've played with," said Collins of Britt. "He is big, physical; he can run. He is going to do everything he can to get the ball. He is aggressive going after it. The guy loves to play."

Britt's quick coming of age gives the Titans another big-play complement to the dynamic Johnson and a relentless defense that entered this week's play atop the NFL with 22 sacks and has been a stone wall within the red zone. Tennessee has allowed a league-low 24 percent of touchdowns (7-of-29) inside its 20-yard line during the team's 5-2 start, with the Eagles settling for field goals on two of its three trips on Sunday.

Numbers like those are hard to dismiss, and neither should this team in an AFC South race in which its chief two rivals, Indianapolis (injuries) and Houston (pass defense), each have some legitimate questions to answer.

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