Unbeaten Titans win in blue-collar fashion
Seven games into a special season that came out of nowhere, Jeff Fisher has carved himself a little slice of coaching heaven.
As the Titans’ longtime coach said earlier this month, “I’ve got a defense that can put it on you, and a veteran quarterback who knows what to do and when to throw it away. I can run it, and I’ve got a kicker who can kick it through the uprights and into the end zone. I couldn’t be happier.”
In other words – and this might come as a shock – Fisher isn’t trying to win anyone’s fantasy football league.
If you’re wondering why the Titans, the NFL’s sole remaining undefeated team, haven’t aired it out like the ’07 Patriots or the ’04 Colts or the ’99 Rams or the ’98 Vikings, it’s because Fisher doesn’t want to play that way. The former Bears safety wants to subdue opponents with a physical, fundamentally sound, high-percentage approach, and he’s secure enough in his team’s ability to pull out close games that blowouts aren’t a part of the blueprint.
If his team happens to score 25 consecutive second-half points against the Colts, as the Titans did Monday night in a 31-21 triumph over Indy, far be it from Fisher to argue. He’s perfectly comfortable with unheralded players like Stephen Tulloch, Nick Harper, Chris Hope and Ahmard Hall playing starring roles.
Speaking of comfort, take a look at the AFC South standings after seven games. Last year, this division sent three teams to the playoffs, with Tennessee sneaking in on the final Sunday. This year, the Titans (7-0) own a four-game lead over the Colts (3-4), Texans (3-4) and Jaguars (3-4), each of whom they’ve already defeated.
In other words: Go ahead and start printing those cheesy “AFC South Champions” T-shirts.
Looking further ahead, Tennessee is two games up on the Steelers, Bills and Patriots in the race for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. It’s a long season, but if the Titans can retain their current level of intensity, we might soon be speculating about when Vince Young will return to the lineup – to rest Kerry Collins for the playoffs.
Did anyone see that coming? Yeah, right.
Now for the rest of our questions, beginning with Fisher’s future division champs and ending with Rod Marinelli’s hopelessly lost Lions.
1. Tennessee Titans: Think Jeff Fisher knew what he was doing when he fired offensive coordinator Norm Chow and replaced him with Mike Heimerdinger?
6. Buffalo Bills: Like the previous week’s victory over the Chargers, was Sunday’s defeat to the Dolphins also a “statement game” – and if so, was the statement, “Our secondary has issues”?
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: When all is said and done this season, how damaging will that stretch of four defensive penalties at the end of Sunday’s first half turn out to be?
9. Dallas Cowboys: Knowing Jerry Jones as I do, would you believe me if I told you that to the owner, Roy Williams’ pivotal touchdown catch in Sunday’s huge victory over the Bucs pretty much justified the steep price of acquiring him?
12. Arizona Cardinals: What are the odds that Ken Whisenhunt and his assistants will stress tackling in practice and meetings this week?
20. Indianapolis Colts: With all due respect to that impressive blowout victory over the Ravens a couple of weeks back, can we officially acknowledge that this team is in trouble?
21. Miami Dolphins: Will Wayne Huizenga’s desire to sell his share of the Dolphins before the start of a potential Obama administration make Dolphins fans more or less likely to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate next week?
24. Houston Texans: On the strength of their first three-game winning streak, can these guys make a playoff run, after all?
26. St. Louis Rams: What was more macho: Jim Haslett’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 41 on the Rams’ opening drive in Foxborough on Sunday, or his onside-kick call to start the second half?
29. San Francisco 49ers: If I told you that Mike Nolan sent a good-luck text message Sunday morning to Niners GM Scot McCloughan, the man who’d just fired him, would your opinion of him rise?