Hard-hitting defense leading way for 2-1 Titans

Titans safety Michael Griffin left New York with the cleats of

former teammate Keith Bulluck; Tennessee left with something much

more important – a win.

Griffin added Bulluck’s cleats to his personal collection, but

after a disappointing home loss to Pittsburgh, Tennessee needed to

rebound and the Titans did with a 29-10 win over the Giants on


That coupled with the Texans’ first loss has the Titans (2-1) in

a tie atop the AFC South with Houston and Indianapolis.

So far, the defense has led the way for Tennessee.

The unit among the NFL’s worst in 2009 has allowed just 42

points. Only four teams have allowed fewer points through three

games. The Titans also were tied for third with 10 sacks.

The Giants racked up 471 total yards, most allowed by the Titans

this season. But the Giants couldn’t translate the offense into

points. Tennessee forced three turnovers – two inside the Giants

20, and an interception of Eli Manning by defensive tackle

Sen’Derrick Marks on the game’s first series gave the Titans a

short field and a 3-0 lead.

”Clearly, we have to play better,” coach Jeff Fisher said

Monday. ”But we made plays when we needed to make plays and made

different types of plays.”

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan broke up a pass intended for Hakeem

Nicks on the first possession. The ball popped in the air straight

to Marks as he hustled back downfield toward the play. Marks

credited defensive line coach Jim Washburn for teaching his linemen

to turn and run to the ball once it leaves the quarterback’s


”Sen’Derrick made a great catch,” Griffin said. ”(Linebacker)

Stephen Tulloch makes a great play to get him on the ground. We

want to know what Sen’Derrick’s return game would have been.”

The Giants drove 81 yards on their next possession to a

third-and-goal at the Titans 2. Linebacker Will Witherspoon blitzed

and pressured Manning, who tried to throw with his left hand while

being tackled. Cornerback Jason McCourty intercepted in the end

zone for the touchback.

Griffin downed a Brett Kern punt at the Giants 1 after the

Titans’ first possession of the third quarter had stalled. Griffin

isn’t normally on the coverage team but asked to replace usual

gunner Alterraun Verner who was playing cornerback once McCourty

who hurt his right forearm.

”I’ve been covering punts ever since I was a freshman in

college,” Griffin said. ”The wind the ball was wobbling in the

air. I was just trying to keep the ball from going in the end zone

and give the defense a long field to work with. I managed to make a

great catch and things got turned around from there.”

Three plays later, the Giants were called for a personal foul in

the end zone, resulting in a safety. The Titans led 12-10 and never

trailed again.

Fisher said they will have to play better with Denver (1-2)

visiting Sunday with what he called a more explosive offense than

the Giants. Manning threw for 386 yards, and Denver quarterback

Kyle Orton threw for a career-best 476 yards Sunday.

Griffin said keeping opponents out of the end zone is all that


”That’s how you win football games,” Griffin said.

Notes: Fisher said Monday they still were performing tests on

McCourty’s right forearm, an injury that might need surgery. But

the coach said he hasn’t ruled McCourty out yet against Denver. If

McCourty can’t play, rookie Alterraun Verner likely would get the

start. ”He’s a football player, he’s instinctive and he

understands,” Fisher said. ”He can play either side, left or

right and he can play the nickel at this point. He’s very

intelligent, very competitive.