The Tennessee Titans’ thrilling run came to an end last week,
but they’re determined to reach the playoffs despite the long
Another loss Sunday in a home game against the woeful St. Louis
Rams would all but dash those faint hopes.
Entertaining thoughts of the postseason seemed unthinkable for
Tennessee during an 0-6 start, but the Titans made NFL history by
winning their next five, a stretch that began after they made Vince
Young their starting quarterback.
That streak ended last week with a 27-17 loss at Indianapolis,
putting Tennessee (5-7) two games behind Jacksonville for the AFC’s
final wild-card berth. There are four AFC teams sitting just one
game back of the Jaguars.
That means anything short of another four straight victories
will likely keep the Titans home in January, and even that win
streak might not be enough to avoid missing the postseason.
“Realistically, most of it’s out of our control,” said coach
Jeff Fisher, who is searching for his third straight winning
season. “We need to win out, and they’re aware of that. The only
chance we’ve got is to win the next one.”
For inspiration, Fisher could draw upon his team’s experience in
2006. The Titans started 0-5 that season but played their way into
contention on the season’s last day, needing losses by three teams
and a win to earn an improbable playoff berth.
They got that scenario to play out perfectly, except for a
victory in their finale.
“We’ll see how it goes. We just need to win the next one. It’s
exciting to see how it happens,” said cornerback Cortland Finnegan,
who was a rookie when Tennessee fell to New England to finish that
With league-leading rusher Chris Johnson, Fisher’s team
definitely has a good opportunity for a win against the Rams
Johnson, who became the fifth different NFL player to compile
1,500 yards in 12 games, had his seventh straight 100-yard
performance last week with 113 on 27 carries, giving him 1,509 on
the season. The Titans, however, couldn’t recover after giving up a
touchdown in the first two minutes.
Young had a season-high two touchdown passes and 241 yards after
throwing for a career-best 387 the previous week, but Tennessee
came away with just one field goal on three trips inside the Colts’
“We just didn’t finish in the red zone,” Young said. “Our guys
made some big plays, but we just didn’t finish. Against a team like
this, with an MVP quarterback, you have to score touchdowns.”
Young hurt his right knee last week and had to leave practice
early Thursday. He watched as Kerry Collins took all the first-team
reps in Friday’s practice and is questionable for Sunday.
“He didn’t practice today,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said
Friday, adding that missing practice “will not have anything to do
with whether or not he plays. He understands the game plan and got
at least half of the preparation.”
Tennessee will likely rely on Johnson more in this week’s game
as he’ll face one of the NFL’s worst rushing defenses. St. Louis,
which allows 146.2 yards per game on the ground, is also among the
worst in average points (26.2) and total yards (363.7) allowed.
The Rams won’t have their second-leading tackler either after
safety Oshiomogho Atogwe was placed on injured reserve Wednesday
with a dislocated shoulder.
It wasn’t the defense that caused St. Louis the most frustration
in last week’s 17-9 loss at Chicago. In their fourth straight
defeat, the Rams were held without a touchdown for the first time
since Oct. 25 despite favorable field position for most of the
Seven of their 13 possessions began at no worse than their own
41, and nine times they crossed midfield.
Steven Jackson rushed for 112 yards on 28 carries for his fifth
100-yard performance in six games, but Kyle Boller threw for just
113 yards as he lost his 10th straight start dating to Oct. 21,
2007, with Baltimore.
The Rams will need a better performance from Boller as they try
to take advantage of one of the league’s worst passing defenses
(267.0 ypg). The Titans are among the best, however, at stopping
the run (100.3 ypg), and they haven’t allowed an opposing player to
rush for 100 yards since Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew on Nov.
“We all know Steven’s the featured guy here, so I don’t think
we’re going to drive anybody out of what they do stopping the run,”
said coach Steve Spagnuolo, whose team has averaged an NFL-worst
11.6 points. “But we’ll find other ways to move the ball
The Rams and Titans have met just once since their Super Bowl
matchup in 2000, St. Louis’ 31-27 home win on Sept. 25, 2005.
The Rams have made one previous trip to Tennessee, a 24-21 loss
on Oct. 31, 1999. They lead the all-time series 7-3, including the
Super Bowl victory.