George presents litmus test for Raiders defense

The Raiders feel like they solved some of the problems plauging their run defense last week when they shut down LaDainian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers, but a better gauge should come Saturday night when Oakland hosts the Tennessee Titans.

In the last two meetings between the two teams Titans running back Eddie George has been unstoppable while rushing for 415 yards. And that has been in years when the Raiders have been fairly solid otherwise in stopping the run. This season Oakland has had its share of problems against opposing running backs. Prior to holding the Chargers and Tomlinson to just 68 yards rushing total, the Raiders had been giving up almost 200 yards a game during a five-week stretch. George, one of the AFC's most dominant backs in recent seasons, has been beset by a series of foot injuries that have left him with very abnormal numbers. George has rushed for 736 yards this season, 16th most in the NFL, but he is averaging just 2.9 yards a carry, the third-lowest average among all backs with 80 carries or more. In Tennessee's 26-20 win over Green Bay last week, George was held to 26 yards on 15 carries and sat out most of the second half while watching back-up Skip Hicks come on to run for 142 yards on 17 carries. Still the Raiders defense know that George presents arguably their biggest challenge this season. ''With a back like that, any way you can get him down is the right way,'' said Oakland safety Anthony Dorsett, a teammate of George's in Tennessee from 1996-99. ''Most of the time Eddie's as big as anybody coming to him him. Once he gets past the line of scrimmage he's on equal ground.'' George, on the other hand, says too much has been made of the Raiders problems stopping the run. Perhaps being a bit too politically correct, the Titans top back cited Oakland's ability to shut down Tomlinson as an example. ''They're playing better,'' said George. ''People aren't giving them enough credit in stopping the run. They've had their games when they've been off. For the most part, any team can defend the run really well if they put their mind to it. They're looking to do that. If you're looking back four or five weeks, yeah, you can say they weren't a good run defense. But as of recently they're stopping the run fairly well. They're making the right (reads) and guys are making tackles. So they're an aggressive defense. I'd have to say they're 10-3 right now so I wouldn't be complaining too much about the run defense.'' Oakland captured the AFC West division title last week with the win over San Diego, but the Raiders are still trying to secure a first-round bye. They are one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the race for the best record in the AFC. Tennessee, meanwhile, is trying to hang on to what little playoff hopes remain. At 6-7, the Titans are behind both Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC Central and would miss out on the postseason were the regular season to end today.

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