Matt Hasselbeck certainly has felt better than this at certain
points in his long career, but he still feels good enough to try
and keep the Tennessee Titans in the chase in the AFC South.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to make the most of this
opportunity or they could fall further back in the NFC South
Proving himself able to start after suffering an arm injury last
week, Hasselbeck will try to rally the Titans on Sunday when the
Buccaneers try to snap a four-game losing streak.
Trailing division-leading Houston by 1 1/2 games, Tennessee
(5-5) lost more ground to the idle Texans and dropped into a pack
of four .500 teams in the conference with Sunday’s 23-17 loss at
With the Titans down 23-3 late in the third quarter, Hasselbeck
left the game after banging his right elbow off a Falcons defender.
While rookie and eighth overall pick Jake Locker played well –
completing 9 of 19 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns –
Hasselbeck told Titans coach Mike Munchak he was ready to play and
proved it in a limited practice session Wednesday.
”We didn’t ask him to throw a lot of deep balls today. He’ll
start doing that tomorrow, just want to be cautious there,”
Munchak said. ”If it was up to us, we probably wouldn’t have
practiced him at all like we hadn’t the last few weeks just to rest
him in general and not necessarily because of the arm. He wanted
obviously to be out here and get some throws and do some
”I think he feels good. It’s all about confidence. I don’t
think he has an awful lot of soreness.”
Hasselbeck did not address the media, but Nate Washington –
coming off his best game as a pro with nine receptions for 115
yards and two TDs – said the veteran signal-caller looked fine.
”He did everything he was supposed to,” Washington said.
”Made the reads when he was supposed to make them, made the checks
when he was supposed to make them. So he looked like Matt
Hasselbeck to me.”
Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris needs his team to be ready
Sunday, and for each of the next six weeks. Tampa Bay (4-6) has
dropped five of six and is three games behind South-leading New
Orleans and two back of the Falcons.
“We’ve got six more (games),” Morris said after Sunday’s 35-26
loss in Green Bay. . “… There’s still time to get hot. We can
still finish with the same record we had last year (10-6) if we get
our minds right, go out and play hard, fast, physical and
Third-year quarterback Josh Freeman hasn’t had the most
impressive season – he’s already been picked off 15 times – but he
threw for a career-best 342 yards Sunday with two fourth-quarter TD
passes to help Tampa Bay rally from 14-0 down.
Freeman knows it’s going to take more of these types of efforts
for the Buccaneers to make a late-season push.
“You have to go out and approach every week from here on out as
a much-win situation,” he said. “You try to win them all, but right
now it’s very crucial that we go out and take advantage of every
LeGarrette Blount has made the most of his chances since the
Titans cut him last September, supplanting Cadillac Williams as
Tampa Bay’s starter and running for 1,548 yards in 21 games.
“It looks like he is doing a great job for them and it ended up
being a great fit for him last year with them picking him up and
getting a chance to play and he has taken full advantage of it,”
Munchak said of Blount, who had a 54-yard TD and 107 rushing yards
Munchak wishes his backfield was that opportunistic. One of the
main reasons the Titans are averaging a league-low 77.3 rushing
yards is the play of Chris Johnson. The three-time Pro Bowler is
running for a career-low 3.2 yards per carry after being held to 13
on 12 rushes Sunday.
“You go back to the last game (a 30-3 road win over Carolina on
Nov. 13) and I got 130 (yards) and everything was good,” Johnson
said. “You come back to this game and nothing is working. It goes
back to the offense not executing, not being consistent.”
Munchak is looking for better offensive line play, but that unit
could be without right tackle David Stewart after he suffered a
calf injury Sunday.
Former Buccaneer Barrett Ruud has been ruled out of this game
due to a groin injury. Titans rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy, who
forced a fourth-quarter fumble against Atlanta, is expected to
replace Ruud as the starter.
The last time these teams met, Tampa Bay won 13-10 on Oct. 10,
2007, to snap a five-game skid to the Titans franchise.
The Buccaneers have lost both games in Tennessee – 33-13 in
their last visit on Dec. 23, 2003 – after going 0-4 when playing in