Last Monday, I watched the Colts-Titans Monday Night Football game with a real, live, honest-to-God, I cried when Kevin Dyson fell short of the goal line in Super Bowl XXXIV Titans fan. Many felt that this game could be a chance for the Titans to prove their doubters wrong by beating the perennial powerhouse Indianapolis Colts, because up until last week, Tennessee had only beaten one team with a winning record (4-3 Ravens) and its opponents’ combined record was only 14-29. And although the Colts are struggling this season, they are still a respected squad that should not be taken lightly. From a personal standpoint, I was skeptical about Tennessee up until kickoff, but my friend was not.
“You know,” he said just before Rob Bironas started his trot towards the kicking tee, “this team reminds me a lot of the Giants from last year.”
No way. Not a chance. The 2007 Giants? Kerry Collins stopped playing for Big Blue in 2003! Collins is a twice washed-up recovered alcoholic whose salt and pepper beard gives away his 36 years of age, even if his weak 10-yard passes and inability to heave the ball deep don’t. He’s certainly no Eli Manning. Of course, he’s simply filling in for Vince Young, Tennessee’s head case of a franchise player, who went AWOL, sprained an MCL, got booed by fans and was rumored to have taken himself out of a Week 1 game against the Jags.
And sure, the Titans’ defensive line is mean, but is it too mean? In 2006, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth intentionally stomped his cleat into the face of defenseless and temporarily helmetless Cowboys center Andre Gurode, who was on the ground. Gurode received thirty stitches above his right eye after the game, but criminal charges were never filed. However, Haynesworth is by no means the only thug on the Titans squad. A group that produced the dangerous and unstable Pacman Jones now has hot head Cortland Finnegan playing at the corner. Earlier this season, the young defensive back fought with his own teammate, linebacker Keith Bulluck, in the middle of a regular season game.
With all of their problems, few would be surprised if the Titans were a .500 team instead of an undefeated bunch and an early Super Bowl pick. But the Titans are 7-0 right now, and fans have the courage to say that they may be this year’s version of “the Giants.”
Despite all of their problems, the Titans beat the Colts, 31-21 on Monday, and this team is anything but a fluke. While Kerry Collins may not be the sexiest pick for quarterback in the NFL, he has been able to manage games. Furthermore, while he has only thrown three touchdown passes, he has never lost a fumble(which he always did as a Giant), and he has only thrown three interceptions through six games.
Collins does not have recognized talent anchoring his offense, with relatively unknown tight end Bo Scaife leading a pass-catching core supported by former New York Jet Justin McCareins, who was a big-time bust in the Big Apple. However, Collins runs an efficient offense that makes the big plays when it has to.
When the Titans get into the red zone, they, the defense, the fans and casual observers know they’re going to give the ball to “that fat guy.” That’s right. After showing up to training camp in 2007 at 260 pounds, 25 pounds heavier than at the conclusion of the previous season, LenDale White has become the Brandon Jacobs of the Tennessee Titans. With ten touchdowns this season, White has proved to be an unstoppable force in short yardage situations.
And while the offense has done enough to win games, the Titan defense has been the highlight. Led by veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck (43 tackles and one sack this season), Tennessee boasts 12 interceptions and 18 sacks while only allowing a league best 12.4 points per game. With a stout defensive line and a secondary that is allowing less than 200 yards through the air per game, the Titans defense is truly a force to be reckoned with.
Kerry Collins is not an overpowering quarterback, but he has found a way to squeak out a couple of wins. The Titans defensive line hardly gives quarterbacks a chance to set their feet before they go on the run or get dragged down for a loss. And in the red zone, LenDale White refuses to go down to the ground on first contact.
They’re nobody’s favorite, but no one wants to pick against them. Come to think of it, maybe the Titans aren’t that different from the Giants of last year after all.