Behind Enemy Lines: Titans coming off 1st win

Was it Vince Young, ordered by owner Bud Adams to start at quarterback after an 0-6 start with Kerry Collins? Was it Chris Johnson, who rushed for a franchise-record 228 yards against Jacksonville? Was it a defense that was pieced back together with returning veterans and benefited from the rediscovery of a long lost pass rush. Yes – all the above.

All helped in varying degrees last weekas the Titans finally earned their first victory of the season, 30-13 against Jacksonville, a mere two weeks after suffering through maybe the worst loss in NFL history, 59-0 at New England.

Young returned to the starting quarterback role and acquitted himself well as a game manager, completing 15 of 18 passes in the game for a meager 125 yards. Included in that was a 6-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington, and more importantly, no interceptions or sacks.

Young, of course, got major help from Johnson, who is establishing himself as one of the premier running backs in the NFL, leading the league with 824 yards even in the midst of a terrible Titans season.

Johnson's rushing helped the Titans control the clock for more than 39 minutes against the Jaguars, and a rested defense -- save for two long TD runs by Maurice Jones-Drew – played much better as well.

The Titans sacked Jaguars quarterbacks four times in the game, and Cortland Finnegan, back from a hamstring injury, and newcomer Rod Hood, both had key interceptions.

The victory might not have solved all the Titans problems this season, but it did stop the bleeding and gave the Titans a dose of much-needed confidence after eight losses in a row dating back to last season.

"We needed to fix a lot of things, fix our attitude, fix the way we feel about ourselves. I think we've got some confidence now, and hopefully we'll keep things rolling," said defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who recorded his first sack of the season.

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In talking about opposing defenses trying to prepare for RB Chris Johnson's speed, Titans coach Jeff Fisher told a story of a team he once was a part of using a rather unorthodox method of preparing for former Detroit Lions star Barry Sanders' start-and-stop abilities.

"I remember one team in particular brought a chicken out on the field and let the defense chase the chicken around, just desperately trying to simulate the speed and the quickness," Fisher said. That's the way it is with Chris."

So how did the chicken experiment work out?

"It wasn't my idea. And it didn't work. It just stood there and they picked it up. And we took it back to the farm by the way," Fisher said.

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QB Vince Young garnered plenty of attention in leading the Titans to their first win of the season in his first start since Sept. 7, 2008, after being ordered back into the lineup by owner Bud Adams.

Fisher was most pleased in that Young seemed to learn from his time on the bench, a span of 22 consecutive games of being behind Kerry Collins.

"He's learned to just take what's there, take the check-down, get rid of the ball or take off when it's time to go take off. So, we said all along that he's developing," Fisher said. "Even though we were watching Kerry (Collins), Vince was developing. I'm hopeful that the work he's put in will translate over to success in the game."

Young admits he has learned some things during his time on the bench and he imagined how he would handle it when his next turn came.

"The year off has helped me a whole lot," Young said.

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The Titans' coaches apparently had to have their arms twisted to make the move from Kerry Collins to Vince Young at quarterback.

Owner Bud Adams' insistence that Young be given a look in the 0-6 start was met with resistance from coach Jeff Fisher and his staff, but in the end Adams as the owner prevailed.

And for at least one week, Adams was right, as Young completed 15 of 18 passes for a meager 125 yards Sunday, but had one touchdown and no interceptions. More important, the Titans finally won, dispensing with the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-13.

The reason the move to Young might be the right one is simple. It forces the Titans to get back to the style of football that works best for them. In part because of early deficits, the Titans were throwing the football too much during their losing streak. They had averaged nearly 34 passes per game in the first six games of the season. Last year, the Titans averaged 28 passes per game.

Last Sunday, using the conservative approach with Young meant the Titans would have to get back to running the football if they were to have any chance of winning. And it wound up being a career day for Chris Johnson, who set a franchise record with 228 yards and two touchdowns in the process.

"Before the game, I told our offensive line to take care of everything up front and the skill guys behind them to make lays when it is time to make plays, and that is what we did," Young said.

That approach helped the Titans roll up 430 yards total offense, with 307 of that coming on the ground.

"Coming into the week, we knew we could run the ball, because the last time we played them we were able to have some success running the ball," Johnson said.

Only time will tell if Young can continue in his role as game manager in leading the Titans' offense, but one thing is sure, it did get Tennessee's offense back in sync by forcing them back to their strong suit in running the ball with Johnson.

As for Young on Sunday, he didn't try to do too much as he shook off the rust in his first start in 14 months. And that proved to be perhaps his biggest contribution of all. Young and the Titans had no turnovers for the first time this season, and even had two takeaways on defense after entering the game minus-10 in the department.

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Rod Hood and the Titans are proving to be a good match.

When Hood was released by the Cleveland Browns and then the Chicago Bears on consecutive days during the preseason, it looked somewhat odd that a starting cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals in last year's Super Bowl could fall completely off the NFL radar, and do so virtually overnight.

But the Titans, desperate for veteran cornerback help after injuries to Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper, are quite happy to have Hood on board.

Signed Oct. 15, Hood has been a quick study in the Tennessee defensive scheme, learning enough to be put in the starting lineup last week against Jacksonville and picking off a pass that led to a field goal in the Titans' 30-13 victory, their first after six straight losses.

"I think we're very fortunate to get a guy that's got that type of experience as well, who has played on some good defenses and has been to two Super Bowls," Titans defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson said. "Getting somebody like Hood as our second or third corner, we're in a good place now at corner, and we don't have to put those rookies out there before they're ready."

Hood, who put in extra time during the bye week to get up to speed, said he knew he could still play, but simply needed the opportunity to show that.

"It never had anything to do with talent. I always knew that. It was always about the opportunity, and at that particular time, the opportunity wasn't in my favor," Hood said.

Hood certainly shed few tears over leaving the Browns, even if it meant being out of the league for the first five weeks of the season.

"It had nothing to do with my play at Cleveland. It was one of those things where I really wanted to get out of there, because I didn't like how things were going, how things were being run there," Hood said.

"I'm just a big guy on character and how things are supposed to be played out, and it wasn't a good situation for me. It was to a point where football wasn't even fun for me. It was terrible to me."

The veteran said he'd never seen an organization run like the one in Cleveland, but now, both he and the Titans are happy to have found each other.

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Forget Cash for Clunkers as a means for jumpstarting the automobile industry.

Car dealers in the Nashville area need to root for Titans running back Chris Johnson to pick up his already blistering pace this season.

That's because Johnson revealed Wednesday that he plans to buy a car for each of his five offensive linemen if he reaches his goal of gaining 2,000 yards on the ground this season.

Johnson leads the NFL with 824 yards rushing after a franchise-record 228 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. With that, Johnson is averaging 117.7 yards on the ground through seven games, but would need to average 130.7 yards over the Titans' final nine games to gain the remaining 1,176 yards to reach 2,000.

If Johnson can reach the milestone, he would join a very exclusive club that includes O.J. Simpson (2,003 yards in 1973), Eric Dickerson (2,105 yards in 1984), Barry Sanders (2,053 yards in 1997), Terrell Davis (2,008 yards in 1998) and Jamal Lewis (2,066 yards in 2003).

"It's a goal of mine," Johnson said. "It's a real goal of the offensive line, because I told them that if I get 2,000 yards, I'd buy them all cars. So they're really trying to do that."

Johnson said his incentive plan might have the linemen wanting him to reach 2,000 even more than he does.

"I just think they want a car. I think they want me to get 2,000 yards more than I want me to get 2,000 yards," Johnson said.

He didn't say what kind of cars he would be buying, but said it would "probably some Hondas or something like that."

His offensive linemen like the idea, but guard Jake Scott has much more than a Honda on his mind.

"I told him a Mercedes, but I don't know if that's gonna work," Scott said. "He said something like a Mini Cooper. We'll see."

David Stewart won't look a gift car in the grille, but did say, "I have to fit in it. That's going to be the key."

Still, Stewart isn't about to turn down a new car by any means.

"That's fine with me. A free car is a free car. I don't give a durn. I am a truck guy, but free is free," Stewart said.

Johnson, who is probably the fastest player in the league with his 4.24 time in the 40-yard dash, said he wants to carry the load more than he has in the past. His 24 carries in Sunday's 30-13 victory over Jacksonville, were a career high.

"I feel comfortable. As long as I continue to stay in the weight room and keep working hard in practice, I feel like I can handle that," he said.

Perhaps the most amazing part of Johnson's numbers this season is that he now has five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving), and all of his scores are from better than 50 yards out.

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