Enemy Profile: Titans

October 12 – Buccaneer Magazine has scouted Tampa Bay's next opponent of the 2001 regular season-the 0-3 Tennessee Titans. Which player matchup will be the one to watch? Want a prediction and some interesting tidbits? Find out what to expect when the Bucs and Titans clash on Sunday.

OPPONENT: Tennessee Titans

WHERE: Adelphia Coliseum in Nashville, Tennessee

SPREAD: Titans by 2 1/2

WHERE THE TITANS STAND:: 0-3 Record. Tennessee is in last place of the AFC Central Division

HEAD COACH: Jeff Fisher (1-0 record vs. Bucs head coach Tony Dungy).

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Mike Heimerdinger

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jim Schwartz

SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Alan Lowry

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks vs. Titans RB Eddie George..

HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL:

OFFENSE: OVERALL: 24th RUSHING: 23rd PASSING: 19th

DEFENSE: OVERALL: 9th RUSHING: 8th PASSING: 13th

HOW THE TITANS RANK IN THE NFL:

OFFENSE: OVERALL: 28th RUSHING: 28th PASSING: 23rd

DEFENSE: OVERALL: 28th RUSHING: 24th PASSING: 26th

TOUCHDOWNLESS AS A BUCCANEER: Bucs QB Brad Johnson has completed 68-of-97 passes (70.1 percent) for 603 yards in three games this season. He has even rushed for one of the Bucs only three offensive touchdowns this year, but he has yet to throw his first touchdown pass as a Buccaneer.

TITANIC HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE?: The Titans play their best football at their home stadium, Adelphia Coliseum. Tennessee is 15-3 at home, but two of those losses were to the Baltimore Ravens last season. The Titans lost their season opener at home to Miami. When taking the postseason and regular season into consideration, the Titans have lost their last two home games.

BY GEORGE, WHERE IS THE RUNNING GAME?: He made the Pro Bowl last season, but this season, Titans RB Eddie George is only averaging 3.0 yards per carry and hasn't scored a touchdown. George is sorely missing blocking FB Lorenzo Neal, who departed last season via free agency to Cincinnati. To make matters worse for the Titans, George sprained his knee against the Ravens last Sunday and he may not even play against the Bucs.

TITANS OFFENSIVE STRUGGLE: Bucs fans might think their team's offense is struggling, but the Titans' offense is even worse. Tennessee has been outscored 36-70 in their three games this season.

INTERCEPTIONLESS IN TENNESSEE: The Titans have played three games this season, but their defense has yet to come up with their first interception. Things became even worse for the Titans when CB Samari Rolle, who is one of the best corners in the NFL, was lost 3-4 weeks with a bruised spinal cord.

APPETITE FOR SACKS: Although the Buccaneers defensive front four is made up of four first round draft picks, they have only recorded three sacks in three games. The defensive line has pressured quarterbacks, but they just can't seem to bring them down before they release the pass. The sacks may come this Sunday, when DT Warren Sapp and Co. face a Titans offensive line which has surrendered nine sacks in three games this season.

BEWARE OF THE FREAK: Titans DE Jevon Kearse is leading the Titans in sacks with two. Bucs rookie LT Kenyatta Walker had his worst game of his short career last week against Green Bay, where he committed two penalties and allowed two sacks. Walker should benefit from practicing against a speed rushing defensive end like Kearse in his teammate, Simeon Rice.

TITANIC THIRD DOWN WOES The Titans offense is struggling on third downs this season. In three games, Tennessee's offense has converted just seven third downs into first downs.

BUCS SOUND OFF ON THEIR UPCOMING OPPONENT
LT Kenyatta Walker on rookie growing pains: "They're going to come after me, I know that,'' said Walker. ``I'm the rookie and they're going to try and take advantage of that. I just have to be on my details, be on top of my game.''

RT Jerry Wunsch on the offensive line allowing five sacks last week against Green Bay: "As a unit we can play a lot better,'' said Wunsch. ``As a unit we have to play better.''

QB Brad Johnson on the play of the Bucs struggling offense : "Sometimes things aren't going to go your way," said Johnson. "You're not going to have the drives that you want. Last week, we came up with the drive of the century for the Bucs. 95-yard drive is the longest drive in team history. It's one we needed and we came through."

QB Brad Johnson on the Bucs hesitation to try and hit the big play: "The big plays will happen," said Johnson. "We can't get carried away in what other people are saying. I think you take your leads and go through your progressions and if you have a shot to take it, you take it. If you don't, then you don't take it."

Head coach Tony Dungy on the 0-3 Titans: "They've got a good ball club and they're going to want to get back into the race," said Dungy. "They're playing at home so we're going to see their best."

Dungy on the wrath of injuries the Titans have suffered: "They've had a lot of injuries in their offense," said Dungy. "The receivers haven't been in the lineup a lot and missed some training camp. McNair was out with some shoulder problem for a few weeks. They are dangerous and they have some good people. Eddie George didn't run a lot and he's starting to get full speed. I would think with the weapons they are going to move the ball eventually on people, hopefully two weeks from now."

Dungy on taking chances down the field against Tennessee: "They force you to throw some balls down field," said Dungy. "You get some bump coverage at times, you have to handle their wide rushers, Kevin Carter and Jevon Kearse put a lot of pressure on and you have to be ready to handle the blitz. You have to make the big plays when they're available. If we get a couple of shots and we're not able to capitalize on them, then it's going to be a long day."

Dungy on facing a tough Titans run defense: "This is going to be a totally different look," said Dungy. "They force the line of scrimmage and make you go after big plays, but they're not going to let you run the ball and grind it out that way. They play a lot of man-to-man coverage. It'll be a different kind of coverage."

Dungy on the defensive line's inability to generate sacks: "I think we're rushing well," said Dungy. "We've rushed two quarterbacks that have made some plays. If you look at the individual rushing and guys who are coming, they've been rushing pretty well.

"I think if you watch all the rush cuts individually, you'd see some pretty good rushes. I wouldn't say we're unhappy with the rush. I think the rush has been very good, as a matter of fact."

FLYNN'S FINAL: This presents an interesting situation and opportunity for the Buccaneers. Facing the Titans in Tennessee would ordinarily be a very difficult task for Tampa Bay, but the Titans are 0-3 and have more injuries and problems than they can handle. Tampa Bay could not have faced Tennessee at a better time. Teams have obviously aimed to stop RB Eddie George by doing so, they have stopped the Titans offense.

The Buccaneers cannot only improve to 3-1 with a win over the Titans on Sunday, but they can also take that record home to Raymond James Stadium for two weeks. After visiting Tennessee, Tampa Bay will host Pittsburgh and Minnesota at home. The Buccaneers can also climb into first place with a win and a Baltimore win over Green Bay.

There's a lot riding for both the Bucs and Titans, but Tampa Bay should win this game. It will be somewhat disturbing if the Buccaneers lose to the Titans, which will mean both of Tampa Bay's losses on the season came to teams that were winless before facing them.

This will be a battle of the defenses, but the Bucs offense is going to have to contribute to win. Two touchdowns by Tampa Bay's offense should be enough for the Bucs to escape Tennessee with a win.

FLYNN'S PICK: Buccaneers 17 Titans 9


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